The pursuit of Virgil Van Dijk by Liverpool was highly publicized in the summer of 2017. I’m sure I’ve got that date right. The transfer from Southampton was nearly a sure thing. The interest from both sides was clear. But then there was a whoopsie secret meeting between Jürgen Klopp and Van Dijk and maybe Michael Edwards but probably not and that made Southampton a little bit angry. And then that made some nice headlines.
And then there was a warning from the FA. But it’s the FA so it was really a warning about a warning. And as they say in show business, the transfer didn’t go through.
But Klopp got his man the following January. Van Dijk was a highly sought after player, known to be on a course for all the best accolades in the game. But Klopp revealed his winning approach to convincing Van Dijk that, amongst all the incredible options that must be on offer, Liverpool is far and away the wisest choice.
“I told him what we wanted to do in the next couple of years and what the plan is, who we have, who we plan to bring in and things we want to improve. All that stuff,” said Klopp.
“Obviously he listened and thought it sounded exciting. I was not surprised when the decision was made but I was not sure before because I knew who else was in the race for him.
“It was a really big moment for him and for us as well. It was a massive statement, that is true. In that moment he was the most wanted centre-half, maybe with Laporte and Koulibaly as well, but in England it was for sure Virgil.”
Honestly laying out the club’s plan to its transfer targets is just Klopp’s way. The manager says he has the same honest approach with every player he hopes to lure to Liverpool. He lets the players know what the expectations are from the very beginning.
“These things are so important for us, so important, but it is not only him. I said pretty much the same things to Gini Wijnaldum. Not that I always say the same things but it was the project we talked about and what we wanted to achieve in the future.
“I tend to say the 100% truth. Sometimes it leads to a strange situation where the player thinks ‘okay, that’s not for me’ but if a player has to fight for his position or not that much, I say it in the first meeting.
“Then they are not surprised when they are in. It is all clarified from the start. When Virgil made his decision it was a fantastic day.”
Klopp’s honesty with his squads is well-known, the German’s above-average man-management has been cited countless times from both past and present players. I appreciate that the manager is up front from the very beginning with other human beings who he hopes will come and play football for him.
Every one of Klopp’s signings has agreed to work their asses off for the team. That builds confidence in the squad. In fact, the squad is so confident that Michael Edwards is thinking of including a “Do you promise to work your ass off” check box on all future contracts. It’s just what I heard.