Liverpool have been trying to orchestrate Virgil van Dijk’s transfer to Anfield since before the 2016-17 season ended, pushing to sign Jürgen Klopp’s top—and perhaps only—centre half target, the man Liverpool’s manager is convinced would take his squad to the next level as they look to push on in the league and Europe.
All along, Southampton have done their best to block any deal, forcing an apology out of Liverpool for tapping up the player and then shrugging off Van Dijk’s attempts to force a move by going on strike and handing in a transfer request. According to their chairman, it’s all been in the service of moving the club forward.
“Virgil is not for sale in this window but it’s not personal,” said chairman Ralph Krueger today. “It’s not about him, it’s about an overall much, much bigger picture—a change of course for Southampton. The first summer I was here, five players went out and six went in. Second summer three went out, seven came in.
“Now it is one out and two in. This is who we want to become. We want to mature, we want to be a team that can create much more attractive football and a better product for the fans and that gives us a chance to get back into Europe. It’s the principle. It’s the statement we need to make to get to a new space as a club.”
Krueger’s talk may seem to end Liverpool’s Van Dijk chase, but at the same time as the chairman was saying Southampton no longer wanted to be seen as a selling club, the Saints were lodging a £15M bid for Lazio centre half Wesley Hoedt, leading to speculation that the 23-year-old Dutchman could be Van Dijk’s replacement.
Southampton for there part say Hoedt is about adding depth, not replacing a player, but on paper he looks exactly the kind of signing they have often made in the past to replace an outgoing star—and beyond that, when asked if there’s any amount of money that could get them to sell Van Dijk, Krueger took a softer stance.
“I will tell you one thing,” he added when pressed on the matter. “Over the years, I don’t give definite answes where there isn’t a definite. With all the knowledge I have today and all the information I have on my plate right now my answer is we are carrying our strategy through the summer and that’s it.”