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Rumour Mongering: Van Dijk to Choose Pep

Could Liverpool’s pursuit of Virgil van Dijk be thwarted by the Premier League presence of Pep Guardiola?

Manchester City v Hull City - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Being transparent about transfer targets makes a club’s ambitions clear, but there can be little in the way of backtracking if a player is not secured. There's also the fact that even having a chance to sign those players is contingent on qualifying for the Champions League next season—something that Liverpool still need to secure with just four games to go.

Naby Keïta, Julian Brandt, and Ryan Sessegnon are on the list, but the arrival of only one player could break Liverpool’s transfer record: Virgil van Dijk. Liverpool are reportedly prepared to surpass the £35 million spent to sign Andy Carroll in January 2011 on the highly-rated Southampton defender. The problem is that both Manchester City and Chelsea are also interested in the 25-year-old, and he apparently wants to play for Pep Guardiola.

Any disappointment in losing out on a player should be assuaged by the prospect of four more years of Dejan Lovren at the heart of the defence after he signed a new contract. Guardiola wants to “overhaul his defence” with two full backs and a centre back in the summer after a disappointing first season in England. Working with a someone of Guardiola’s profile and reputation presumably appeals to Van Dijk combined with the generous wages that will naturally be on offer.

Van Dijk provides a combination of excellence in the air, good defensive awareness, composure on the ball, and physicality that all make him an attractive target. One of Liverpool’s problems hasn't been about spending money but allocating those funds unwisely. Southampton responded to losing Lovren for £20 million by securing Toby Alderweireld on loan from Atlético Madrid with an option to buy the Belgian international for £6.8 million. When Atlético cancelled the agreement for £1.5 million to attract higher bids ahead of the 2015/16 season, Southampton secured Van Dijk for £13 million.

Liverpool may have serious interest in Van Dijk, but actions will have to match the propensity to share news of targets and award improved contracts to players who have yet to convince over a number of years. Even with the willingness to offer big wages and match an exorbitant asking price, signing Van Dijk is no guarantee. Under Jürgen Klopp, however, Liverpool have been selective and impressive in the players that have been signed. Mario Götze may have been the top target last summer, but Sadio Mané showed that the right players are being looked at.

As good as Jürgen Klopp is, he needs support in signing the requisite quality to improve his squad. He had that with Michael Zorc at Borussia Dortmund, and he'll hopefully enjoy similar success with Michael Edwards moving forward. There may have been inactivity in successive January transfer windows, but last summer showed that Liverpool understand the types of players that fit the tactical system and manager’s preferences.

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