There have been plenty of rumours circulating recently which claim that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will aim to make two big signings in the January transfer window. But how true are they and how much is just media speculation?
Klopp is highly likely to find out if a mid-season deal to bring Southampton defender Virgil Van Dijk to Anfield is possible after missing out on the Holland international in the Summer. A mix of politics, accusations and the Saints’ determination to keep the twenty-six year old prevented Klopp from getting his man after persuading him to snub other interest. That interest is likely to still be strong from Manchester City and Chelsea and the Dutchman may well have had his head turned by the two big spending Premier League clubs. But Klopp will be hopeful that his powers of persuasion have not worn off and he will be confident of being able to finally get his man.
Any deal to land Van Dijk will not come cheaply – especially as it is halfway through the season. Southampton made their point in the Summer by refusing to even enter negotiations along with rejecting his transfer request in August. Relations are said to have thawed somewhat since the transfer window closed and Liverpool have been doing plenty behind the scenes to facilitate a transfer. Klopp will be hoping that he can bring in the centre-back he prioritised above all others during the Summer.
An advantage to bringing in the Southampton man in January is that he will not be cup-tied for Europe and will be able to go straight into the Champions League squad for the knockout phase – or Europa League quota should the unthinkable happen this week against Spartak Moscow. Van Dijk has previously spoken of his desire to return to continental action and would no doubt walk from St Mary’s to Anfield if a move can be done in the new year – he would also walk into the Liverpool side, which still looks weak defensively despite an improved run of form.
One man who would not be so keen to see the defender signed in the new year would be former Southampton man Dejan Lovren. The Croatia international has made his feelings pretty clear on the matter by walking away from interview questions on Van Dijk and getting booked in the recent meeting with the Dutchman thanks to a foul on him. Lovren must be very aware that his spot in Klopp’s side would be under serious threat from Van Dijk. But that will depend on Klopp finally being able to get his top defensive target into his squad.
Another player that Klopp is being linked with seems less likely to arrive in January – or at any other time. Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is being linked with a switch to Anfield yet again. Klopp knows the Gabon international well from their time together at the Bundesliga club and would no doubt like to have the twenty-eight year old at his disposal once again. But his price tag and age are likely to be serious stumbling blocks to any deal being done. FSG are highly unlikely to want to sign Aubameyang for what would be a hefty fee given his reputation and output – along with other clubs being interested in a deal. A return to AC Milan failed to materialise in the Summer and he looks increasingly likely to move on in 2018.
FSG have not laid down any markers in terms of bringing in players with high reputations at the peak of their careers. Aubameyang will turn twenty-nine next year and is unlikely to have high sell-on potential, which is something the Boston-based owners appear to favour in their big(ger)-money signings. There is also the complication around whether Aubameyang would be a first-choice in Klopp’s side given the importance of Brazilian international Roberto Firmino to his boss. He offers plenty more than goals playing in the central attacking position and he is highly unlikely to be deposed as first-choice.
Daniel Sturridge has been unable to dislodge the former Hoffenheim man from Klopp’s starting XI and is in a race against time to secure his place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the World Cup next Summer. Reports have claimed that he is seeking a January exit from Anfield in order to gain regular first-team football and his place on the plane to Russia. Given his reduction to being a bit-part substitute under Klopp, it seems far-fetched to think that a player of Aubameyang’s stature is required as his replacement. They are the same age, but Sturridge would not command a fee anything like that the Bundesliga star thanks to more than two years of injury problems and a seeming decline in his abilities.
So those fans hoping that Klopp will go against his form by signing two big name players in January are likely to be disappointed. But, if Southampton can be persuaded to do business, one late Christmas present could well be making his way to Anfield next month.