Liverpool appear to have won the race to sign Virgil van Dijk, beating top four rivals Chelsea and Manchester City to the centre half who was the top defensive transfer target for all three clubs and sending a major signal of intent to the league—not to mention the club’s fans—that they intend to compete for honours at the highest level.
To call van Dijk’s capture a coup would be an understatement given he had been courted heavily by both Pep Guardiola’s City and Antonio Conte’s Chelsea, with England’s two richest sides pushing hard for his signing. Both clubs have more money than Liverpool; both would be considered favourites to finish ahead of them next season.
Despite that, reports today from both the Guardian and Liverpool Echo state that van Dijk chose Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool project, with the manager being backed by Fenway Sports Group to sign a world class centre half in the prime of his career and while facing heavy competition from top domestic rivals. This isn’t the end of the story, though.
Despite van Dijk informing the club he wants to move to Anfield, and despite that Liverpool have told him they will match the wages offered to him by Chelsea and City, Liverpool still need to reach an agreement with Southampton. That will at the very least prove costly, with the Saints seeking upwards of £50M for van Dijk.
The Dutch international arrived at Southampton in the summer of 2015 after a £13M switch from Celtic and over the past two seasons has proven his early promise and established himself as one of England’s top five centre halves. At a Champions League club he will have the chance to prove he is the league’s very best.
Taken all together, that makes him not only a major signing—a marquee signing; a statement of intent—but quite possibly the biggest, most important transfer deal Liverpool have made in the Premier League era. Never before will the club have spent so much on such a highly regarded player while fending off such competition for his signature.
For the club, for its fans, and for clearly and once and for all signalling FSG’s aspirations, this is a signing of unmatched importance. Van Dijk has made his choice. Now Liverpool need to push the deal across the line.