LIVERPOOL’S on-off pursuit of Virgil van Dijk took yet another twist on Monday evening as the Dutchman released a public statement outlining his desire to leave Southampton.
Under 24 hours before, Jürgen Klopp insisted he was happy with his options in the centre of defence, a bizarre climbdown considering the club have been publicly chasing a top-class centre half as a priority this summer.
Heads fell off, which is to be expected. The time between the 10.30pm brigade publishing those Klopp quotes and van Dijk’s transfer request being made public seemed to encapsulate Liverpool’s transfer window so far.
As fast as some good news breaks, the mood is almost instantly dampened by bad news, which sends social media into complete meltdown. Fortunately in this case the good news has proceeded the bad.
All of a sudden there’s a glimmer of hope that on September 1, The Reds can look back over the summer window with a sense of satisfaction. Where at one point it seemed van Dijk, Naby Keita and Philippe Coutinho wouldn’t be Liverpool players by the time the window slammed shut, it now seems Liverpool could have two of their three wishes granted.
Any deal for Keita seems to be as good as completely dead and buried at this stage, but The Reds’ hardline stance on Barcelona’s approach for Coutinho coupled with van Dijk’s strongly-worded press release has given Klopp and co the chance to rescue this window from the brink of collapse.
The news of Coutinho wanting a move to Barcelona was met with much less of the fume than is to be expected. That’s because it hasn’t changed anybody’s stance. Coutinho wouldn’t be human if he wasn’t tempted by a move to a club the size of Barcelona but he wants a move to be done amicably.
The Brazilian has given all the power to Liverpool, who insist they won’t sell their star man for any price. They know that by maintaining their stance they won’t have a problem child on their hands, and they’ll be hoping that Barca are forced to go into the market for a Neymar replacement this summer rather than waiting to come back in for Coutinho at the next opportunity.
Liverpool’s resolve will likely be tested by the Catalan club over the next three weeks but it would be suicide for the owners to sign off on a deal. Not only would it leave little time to find a replacement, there’s no guarantee that a player of his calibre is even available to The Reds.
Coutinho is proven a match winner and even with £120million plus burning a hole in their pocket Liverpool can’t instantly replace that. New players need time to settle and with just days remaining until the start of the new season, the club are on borrowed time.
A sale makes absolutely no sense.
Where van Dijk is concerned the ball is also firmly in Liverpool’s court. That public statement almost reads as a “come and get me” plea from the Southampton defender, who completely scorched all bridges between himself and his employers in the process.
The belief is that The Saints have been keen to save face and not authorise another Merseyside move, having already seen Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne and Sadio Mane head in that direction.
If that is the case, van Dijk wouldn’t have needed to hand in a transfer request to get a move to a bigger club than his current one. The chances are if Manchester City or Chelsea had come in with a bid that matched Southampton’s valuation then the south coast club would cut their ties with a player whose position has become untenable.
That’s either because City and Chelsea don’t hold enough of an interest in the player to make a move or because he’s made his feelings pretty clear throughout the summer that he has his heart set on Liverpool.
Southampton now find themselves in a lose-lose situation. If they choose to maintain the stance they’ve adopted all summer then they will have a player who isn’t 100 per cent committed to the cause and have to deal with the consequences that could have on the dressing room. In addition to that they may be limiting their own chances of signing that calibre of player in the future, as young up and coming players don’t want to see their path blocked in the same way.
But if they choose to sell to Liverpool then they will be seen to have given in again, and will likely face a backlash from their supporters. The best case scenario for Southampton would be for another club to come in and take van Dijk from under Liverpool’s nose.
Which is why The Reds need to make their move and fast. If they are confident that moving for the 26-year-old will have no repercussions, following on from the accusations of tapping up earlier in the window, then they must do so. Throw in a few million on top of the price tag as an apology and allow all parties to move on.
There will still be grumbles about missing out on Keita but sometimes these things happen. It seems Klopp is accounting for that by converting James Milner back into a central midfielder and keeping hold of Alberto Moreno. If the reports about Juventus not being confident of getting Emre Can are true, and they can get a new deal sorted, then they won’t be short on numbers at least.
The Reds could even move for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain if they felt they were short on numbers in midfield. It doesn’t look as though he’s averse to a move…
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain liked a comment on Instagram that read: ‘Unlucky mate… he’s joining Liverpool FC’. pic.twitter.com/1oElQgfV2a
— ArsenalFanTV (@ArsenalFanTV) August 8, 2017
Liverpool have made relative progress this summer. Mohamed Salah is already looking like one of the buys of the window, Andrew Robertson solves last season’s problems on the left-hand side and Dominic Solanke has shown glimpses of why he is so highly thought of.
If they can keep hold of Coutinho and add van Dijk then things will look a whole lot rosier.
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