The media and rival supporters have been talking about the fee Liverpool are paying Southampton for Virgil Van Dijk more than we Reds have. And so they should be given the statement it makes. 2017 has been a year about laying down markers for Jurgen Klopp and this last one is the biggest of them all.
The fee the club pays Southampton for the Holland international could rise to £75m, which has raised eyebrows and concerns around the game in equal measure. And rightly so. Liverpool are going to set the world record for a defender with this deal and that is huge for a club who have been seen as consistent but unspectacular in terms of transfer business. We haven’t been able to do the big deals in the past through a combination of not being able to attract such players regularly and not being able/willing to commit the funds. But in Klopp we have a manager who can pull these players to the club – and without having to ask Steven Gerrard to send some futile texts.
While Van Dijk isn’t of the reputation of a player like Toni Kroos, he was courted by practically all our rivals and we won the race. He chose us and waited for the move after we failed to get a deal done in the Summer and that is testament to the pulling power of the German. He has been our most important signing under FSG and has opened the door for us to get the likes of Van Dijk and Keita. While he hasn’t been able to convince Philippe Coutinho that his long-term future is at Anfield, he has been able to manage the situation well enough to keep the Brazilian as a key component of his side. If he can change the player’s mind, which I’m not expecting in all honesty, then it would be yet another excellent coup for the boss.
Rival supporters have already been coming up with chants about Van Dijk and explaining why there are so many better defenders around. That just goes to show their disappointment in seeing us win the race to land the Dutchman. The more they sing about our players, the more you know they rate them. It’s not a coincidence that United and Chelsea fans go on about Steven Gerrard when he was quite clearly one of the greatest players we’ve ever had. While Van Dijk cannot be spoken about in that manner, he has rocked the boat in terms of the perceived pecking order.
We have been seen as part of the second trio within the top six clubs which have emerged, along with Arsenal and Spurs. While City, United and Chelsea have been able to spend more in terms of fees and wages, the other three have been less lavish. By signing Van Dijk for £75m we are making a statement and pulling ourselves away from Arsenal and Spurs and closer to the top three spenders – especially as we beat at least two of them to the deal.
A reason why the fee is an aside is that we need this player. Everyone points to our defence as our Achilles heel and, while he won’t solve it all alone, he will go a long way to improving our situation at the back. He is a leader, an organiser and is strong in just about every department a footballer could wish to be. If he helps push us up from top four contenders to a title contender, then the money spent becomes more irrelevant. He could even help see us overtake Chelsea and United to snatch second place, an automatic Champions League spot and set the foundations for us to challenge City next season.
While 2017 has been a year of evolution and steps of progess, 2018 is looking like a year of optimism and hope.