Southampton, upset by the widespread reports on Monday that 25-year-old centre half Virgil van Dijk was determined to move to Liverpool for the 2017-18 season, have today lodged a formal complaint with the Premier League according to local paper The Daily Echo.
The Saints’ star defender, one of the league’s top five centre halves, had been heavily linked with a move to one of Liverpool, Chelsea, or Manchester City in recent weeks. Yesterday it emerged that the chance to work with Jürgen Klopp had swung the centre half solidly towards Anfield.
That Van Dijk might have chosen Liverpool to work with Klopp doesn’t necessarily mean an illegal approach took place, but if Klopp and Van Dijk met and if Klopp used the meeting to sell the Dutch international on a Liverpool move it likely would be classed as such.
Assuming Southampton do not withdraw the complaint over the coming days, if meetings between the player and manager had taken place it would likely mean a fine for Liverpool. Such was the case when Chelsea were found guilty of tapping up Ashley Cole a decade ago.
On that occasion, the three parties—Chelsea, Cole, and Jose Mourinho—were fined a combined £600k and Chelsea were handed a suspended three-point points deduction for the next season. When the season ended without any further offences, the suspended deduction was lifted.
This move by Southampton is perhaps a touch surprising given that they appear unbothered by Chelsea and Manchester City’s approaches for the player, which to all appearances were as robust and determined as Liverpool’s has been.
It is also surprising as Southampton’s business model since their arrival in the Premier League has involved developing or discovering players capable of playing for the top six sides and then selling them on at a profit, using the funds to reinvest in multiple new players.
Some of those players, like Sadio Mané and Virgil van Dijk, pan out. Others, like Graziano Pelle and Pablo Osvaldo, are less successful. Turning around and selling those players who do prove their worth allows them to reinvest and maintain a comfortable mid-table existence.
Without significant further investment, it’s difficult for a club in Southampton’s position to do more than that, and selling Van Dijk this summer for a fee of at least £50M fits their established business model more than keeping him—and likely finishing in the same mid-table position.
Still, today they have reported Liverpool for their approach for Van Dijk, and today their local paper of record say the club are more determined than ever to hold on to their defensive star. Whether that’s a signal of serious intent or simply posturing may take some time to figure out.