Liverpool have finally completed a deal to sign Virgil van Dijk after months of chasing the centre-back. BBC Sport report that the Southampton centre-back will join the Reds when the transfer window opens in January. A deal had been expected to go through during the previous summer transfer window, but Saints held firm and will now receive a world record fee for a defender. The report states that the fee will be £75 million, which is a huge amount and the latest example of how transfer fees continue to increase.
It has been evident that Liverpool haven’t been good enough at the back this season. They have continually made errors that have cost them, with the best examples being the 3-3 draws against Sevilla and Arsenal. In both matches, they had a commanding lead and let it slip due to poor concentration in their own third of the pitch. Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan are both decent defenders, but they aren’t good enough to be starting for a team with ambitions of winning the title. The fee for Van Dijk may be a touch high, but Liverpool’s huge need for a quality centre-back has allowed Southampton to demand over the odds.
The Dutchman emerged as one of the best centre-backs during his time at Southampton and he is a multi-functional player who will thrive at a better club. Van Dijk is comfortable on the ball and capable of launching attacks from deep, which makes him perfect for a Jurgen Klopp side. His pass completion of 86% and an average of 42.21 forward passes per ninety minutes this season underline the classy side to his game. The 26-year-old is always willing to carry the ball out of the defence to put his side on the counter-attack and Liverpool will be a much better team in possession after his signing.
As a physical presence, Van Dijk is a great player to have in your team. He is tall and capable of dominating physical contests with strikers. This season, he has won 73.75% of his aerial duels. This is very impressive and considerably more than Dejan Lovren who has won only 63.53% of his. Although Liverpool are a team that like to play with the ball on the floor, they have been susceptible to being attacked aerially. The addition of Van Dijk will help improve them in that area, in addition to him being an asset for set pieces in both boxes.
This season has been a difficult one for Van Dijk as he has been unsettled at Southampton. He has played in 12 Premier League matches, but he has looked less interested than he has been in previous campaigns. His average of 0.63 tackles won and 2.61 interceptions per ninety minutes clearly underline his style of defending. The Dutch international is excellent at reading the game and anticipating where the ball is going next. This allows him to step in and intercept the ball before moving the ball forwards to launch an attack.
Jurgen Klopp has defended his defensive options all season, but the quick move for Van Dijk before the window has even opened shows that the manager knew he needed to improve at the back. This is a great signing for the club. The money is a touch on the high side, but the inflation in football means that it difficult to judge whether this is a fair price or not. Van Dijk will improve the football team and that is all that matters. The news has given a huge boost to supporters and the Reds can now enter the second half of the season with a lot of momentum.