After reports yesterday indicated Liverpool had lowered their aim to the second tier of centre-backs for the upcoming summer, fans had begun to accept that Virgil van Dijk was in all likelihood not joining the club at the end of the season, and had started mentally spending that — quite frankly, excessive — moolah elsewhere. A supporter's attention is a tenuous thing, and Naby Keïta, Julian Brandt and Timo Werner were to be the squirrel! to our inner Dug.
Merely 24 hours later, however, James Pearce — of the Liverpool Echo and No Sakhos Club fame — can report that the Reds are ready to shatter their all-time transfer record in order to land the Dutch defender. Southampton have no intention of letting Liverpool spend their return costumer coupons, demanding the full fifty million in cold, hard, post-brexit pound sterling, and the money men aren’t objecting.
On the one hand, this could be seen as a matter of FSG showing utter faith in their manager — a good thing, by most standards — and letting him pick and choose from the top shelf, indicating that they are committed to his project long-term, despite Champions League participation looking increasingly dicey. Then again, Brendan Rodgers was given a shiny £30m Benteke and still got punted two months later, so maybe don't read too much about manager security into the owners' willingness to bankroll their man.
What is certain, however, is that Virgil van Dijk, regardless of fee, would be a significant upgrade on at least four of the Reds' current central defensive options. Big, athletic, tremendous in the air, and possessing a poise that has been seen all too rarely at Merseyside in recent seasons, the former Celtic man checks a lot of boxes. Whether he will look equally accomplished in a system that will see him do more one-on-one defending in open space remains to be seen, but at least he knows how to clear a set-piece.
The Reds won't be the only club keen on the Dutch international, and Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City are also sniffing around. Champions League football is supposedly a must, but a willingness to make van Dijk one of the club's top earners could be enough to lure a sixth Southampton player in three years to Anfield. Hopefully, he'll be as successful as the last one.