It’s time for another ponder about Virgil van Dijk. The story of the summer for Liverpool, the tale of defence for Southampton and the centre of tireless speculation. The Dutchman’s stock has risen greatly as clubs have gazed longingly at a centre-back capable of defending and passing, something that all too many a top team lacks.
Whether protected by Victor Wanyama or Oriol Romeu, van Dijk has become the model for a Premier League central defender. Perhaps it’s been inflated due to the transfer talk, but van Dijk is a class act and a desirable one at that.
The Saint’s status as the most wanted man in the Premier League has not entirely pleased the Southampton hierarchy. Mauricio Pellegrino has recently arrived at the club as a replacement for Claude Puel, and was quickly welcomed with news that Liverpool had supposedly tapped up the Dutchman.
A consistent trading relationship between the clubs has perhaps been strained beyond repair, but that still has the market suggesting van Dijk is more likely to become a Liverpool player (3/4) than remain a Saint this summer.
Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren are the first choice defensive options for Liverpool as we eke towards the opening weekend of the season. Mamadou Sakho remains an outcast that Jurgen Klopp has not shifted, and Ragnar Klavan will be a willing deputy. Van Dijk is a step up on all three, and has seemingly been the primary target for the Reds all summer. It’s a pursuit that has dominated many a rumour mill this summer, but a pursuit that is far from concluding.
Desperation is beginning to hit at Anfield. Failure to make ground in their chase of Naby Keita and a roadblock in the van Dijk deal has left Klopp’s side looking paper thin with only days until the Premier League season begins. With van Dijk supposedly desperate for a move to Merseyside, it might well be a case of ‘time to cough up’ for Liverpool.
Other than the 20/1 outside shot of Manchester City, Chelsea (5/4) are the only real contenders for van Dijk. Despite signing Antonio Rudiger and with Andreas Christensen back at the club after his loan with Borussia Monchengladbach, Antonio Conte is believed to be keen on van Dijk as the Blues look to add to their own limp squad.
The rumours for a transfer to the champions have become to simmer again of late. Chelsea’s own turgid summer might suggest the fee will be out of their realm of consideration given the money stumped up for Rudiger, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Alvaro Morata, though.
Manchester City, mind, are the value in this market. John Stones is yet to convince, Nicolas Otamendi faces an uncertain future and Vincent Kompany’s injuries remain a concern. Pep Guardiola has spent extravagantly already this summer, and many will see an extra centre-back as the final piece of the jigsaw. There’s no chance the 2014 champions will turn their noses up at the price, either.