SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 19, 2016: Liverpool's Sadio Mane in action against Southampton's Virgil Van Dijk during the FA Premier League match at St. Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

REPORTS today suggest that Virgil van Dijk has expressed a desire to join Liverpool despite interest from Manchester City and Chelsea, so we take a look at the Reds’ pursuit of the Southampton defender and what the Dutchman could offer.

A brief background

The towering centre-half — standing 6ft 4in — began his career with Willem II, incidentally the club Liverpool signed Sami Hyypia from, before moving to Groningen where he would make his breakthrough.

Van Dijk made 66 appearances for the Dutch side, scoring seven goals across three seasons, before Celtic declared an interest. Brendan Rodgers recently revealed that the Reds had the chance to sign van Dijk back in 2013, just prior to his move to Celtic Park.

The now Celtic boss said: “Some clubs will want to see the players tested at certain arenas first.

“But if there is enough belief in the player then that counts. The key for scouting is trying to predict when the player is peaking.

“You could see with van Dijk that he was quick, strong, good on the ball and decent in the air.

“So what more do you need to see? You could see him playing international football and, OK, clubs may want to see him in Champions League.

“When I was at Liverpool I asked about van Dijk and he was at Groningen and then at Celtic. But I was told he wouldn’t be for us at the time.”

The Hoops certainly profited from Liverpool’s loss. van Dijk appeared 115 times for Celtic and scored 15 times including an incredible solo effort against St Johnstone.

Southampton paid £13 million for van Dijk on transfer deadline day in the summer of 2015 and he has been nothing short of a revelation for the Saints.

In 68 appearances the Dutch defender has bagged seven goals some of which have come at crucial times in games — including two crucial equalisers in this season’s Europa League — and has displayed all the attributes of a top defender, his height making him a great aerial threat as well as showing great composure on the ball and good pace for a centre-half.

After Jose Fonte’s departure from Southampton, van Dijk was made the ‘team captain’ — meaning that, despite Steven Davis being club captain, he would captain the team if he was selected.

Claude Puel explained his decision: “Virgil will be the captain of the team, with Davis also as a captain of the club.

“It’s two very important people and players in the squad, who have earned a lot of respect from their teammates.

“Davis and Virgil will give a good attitude and a good spirit to the rest of the team, and that’s important.”

What’s the latest?

The stories emerging today claim that Liverpool are prepared to smash their transfer record to sign van Dijk — with suggestions the fee could reach up to £60m.

The Saints defender was touted as Jürgen Klopp’s top target in the summer window, as the Liverpool boss believed he would be an instant improvement to the Reds’ defence.

Southampton slapped a big price tag on their prized possession, with City and Chelsea ready to match their valuation and offer the defender a big pay packet. But Liverpool stamped their intent with rumours they would match the advances of the Premier League’s financial giants, though they were confident the player’s decision wouldn’t come down to money.

And that appears to have been the case with van Dijk reportedly said to favour a move to Merseyside, having been impressed with Klopp’s vision for the future of the club.

There is still some way to go with the clubs yet to agree a fee but the indications are that Liverpool will now get a clear run at their man.

What do his former managers say?

Neil Lennon: “Can he be the world’s best? Yes.

“I think he could play for Barcelona, I think he could play for Real Madrid — it wouldn’t surprise me if he took his career on to those pathways.

“I believe he could play at any club side in Europe now — he’s that good. He’s only 25, he’s got 10 years in him.

“He has got everything you want from a modern-day centre-half: he’s powerful, he’s quick, technically brilliant, he reads the game well, superb in the air.

“So it doesn’t surprise me that the big clubs are coming in now — it’s just surprising that they have waited so long.”

Ronny Deila: “In my opinion he has the biggest potential in a defender I have ever seen.

“He is a good player with the ball, on the ball. He is a good personality as well and his biggest tests have still to come.

“He will be at the top level in the Champions League if he does the right things.”

Ronald Koeman: “He is strong, he’s fast and he’s important in the way we like to build-up.

“He is good at short passing, he has a good long pass. He is also a good header of the ball, has a good shot and is a good free-kick taker. He’s a very good centre-back.”

Jamie Redknapp: “He’s immense, I say it every time I watch him. He gets better and better.

“He’s got the after-burners, he’s so comfortable on the ball. Whoever decides to buy him, he is a fantastic player.

“There’s not a better centre-back in the Premier League.”

Ryan Bertrand: “For me, he is number one in the Premier League. Even going into the Champions League clubs, he is one of the best and right up there for me.

“Having played right next to him and seen his capabilities, I know that he is right up there. He has got pace, strength and technical ability. He reads the game well and he is great and very reliable to play alongside.”

CARDIFF, WALES - Friday, November 13, 2015: The Netherlands' Virgil Van Dijk in action against Wales during the International Friendly match at the Cardiff City Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

What’s his injury record like?

It’s good news for The Reds. Apart from suffering the biggest injury of his career at the back end of last season, van Dijk has only had two previous spells out with injury according to transfermarkt.co.uk.

VanDijkInjury

To hear discussion around Liverpool’s targets and more subscribe to The Anfield Wrap and listen to ‘The Gutter’ – our regular round-up of all the transfer talk. Look out too for special podcasts on new signings when they happen.

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