It will only be a few days now, before the return of proper football is upon us, following the insipid languor of the international break. Liverpool will be dropped in at the deep end, facing off with bogey team Crystal Palace and local rivals Everton, interspersed by a two-leg Champions Leage clash with Premier League champions elect Manchester City, all in the span of 10 days.
It’s a grueling run, and one that will likely require Jürgen Klopp to use the full depth of his squad. In practice, this means that Ragnar Klavan may very well be required to step in and perform at the crunchiest time of the season, a situation that can reasonably be described as less than ideal.
While the introduction of Virgil van Dijk has seemingly steadied an at times rickety Liverpool defense, there are question marks over the Dutchman’s partners and backups, and the assumption is that alongside central midfield, continuing to upgrade at centre-back will be one of Klopp’s priorities in the off-season. During the international break, van Dijk expanded his contribution to the football club by offering an impromptu scout report.
”Matthijs De Ligt is an excellent player, already mature for 18 years old.” The 75-million pound man told Die Telegraaf following the teenager’s brace of assists against Portugal.
”’Good enough is old enough’, they often say. Of course I do not know what options he has [for a transfer], but when I see how he plays for Holland, it does not matter if he leaves the Eredivise now or in two years, that’s up to him.”
While the days of players recommending players to their clubs are largely long gone — at any rate, it would be shocking to find that Liverpool weren’t already aware of de Ligt — van Dijk might be on to something here, and first-hand experience with the player should certainly count for something.
Accomplished on the ball, de Ligt presents as an archetypal totaalvoetbal defender, comfortable stepping up into midfield either to break up play, spread passes around, or carry the ball through the pressing lines. Lacking elite physical tools, the 18-year old compensates through a combination of timing and an ability to read the play that belies his young age. The Ajax youth product has started 27 of 28 league games for the capitol club this season, and has already earned five international caps, looking set to join his country at the World Cup this summer.
No fee has been circulated, and no club-connected journalists have come out and confirmed the interest, but the demand and talent are both genuine, Ajax are notoriously willing sellers, and, assuming the player catches Klopp’s fancy, Liverpool are increasingly willing buyers. Watch this space.