Thursday 22 February 2018

Liverpool quickly identify new defensive target following Virgil van Dijk humiliation

Stefan De Vrij of Lazio
Stefan De Vrij of Lazio

Fresh from their Virgil van Dijk humiliation, Liverpool are turning their attentions towards another imposing central defender with a difficult to spell surname - at least according to the Italian media.

Transfer merchants Calciomercato report that Liverpool are in contract with Lazio over Stefan De Vrij and are well positioned to take advantage of the Dutch defender's perilous contract situation. The 25-year-old only has 12 months left to run on his current deal and so is available on the cheap, at least compared to £70m man Van Dijk.

Juventus are also interested in De Vrij, who could leave for as little as £20m, but are reportedly more keen on PSG man Marquinhos, paving the way for the Lazio defender to move to Anfield.

Liverpool ended their pursuit of van Dijk and apologised to Southampton after the south coast club alleged they had made an illegal approach.

The Reds appeared to be in pole position to sign the Dutchman - believed to have been Jurgen Klopp's top target - after he apparently indicated his eagerness to become the latest player to swap St Mary's for Anfield.

But Saints cried foul, and Press Association Sport understands they asked the Premier League on Tuesday to investigate an alleged illegal approach.

That led to high-level talks between the clubs on Wednesday, followed by an announcement that Liverpool had withdrawn their interest in the player.

A statement from Liverpool read: "Liverpool Football Club would like to put on record our regret over recent media speculation regarding Southampton Football Club and player transfers between the two clubs.

"We apologise to the owner, board of directors and fans of Southampton for any misunderstanding regarding Virgil van Dijk.

We respect Southampton's position and can confirm we have ended any interest in the player."

Press Association Sport understands Wednesday's discussions were the first time the clubs had spoken this summer as Liverpool had not been in contact about Van Dijk before then.

If both clubs agree the matter is over, then it is understood to be likely that the Premier League would not take any further action regarding the matter.

Liverpool had been expecting to pay in excess of £50milllion - a world-record fee for a defender - and were understood to be willing to make Van Dijk the highest-paid player at the club.

The 25-year-old, who has five years left on his deal at St Mary's, is said to have preferred Liverpool ahead of interest from Chelsea and Manchester City.

Last month Southampton chairman Ralph Krueger told Press Association Sport the club would no longer be bullied in the transfer market, saying they were in a position to turn down a £60million bid for Van Dijk.

"We do not need to sell any player for the first time since I've been here," Krueger said.

"I can make that statement and - unless football decides it's in the best interests - we don't need to do that."

Additional reporting from PA...

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