SAY what you like about Rio Ferdinand, his links across the M62 and that gut wrenching, injury-time winner against Liverpool at Old Trafford in 2006 (of which I still hold Djibril Cisse more to account then anybody else), but I thought he was a fine centre-back.
Elegant, imposing, calm and assured, he was a core fundamental aspect of the halcyon 2008 Manchester United despotism under Alex Ferguson. Yet the thing that impressed me most about Ferdinand was his strength of character. A twice world-record transfer fee breaking defender who, annoyingly, never seemed to carry any burden of it around with him on the football pitch.
Some 15 years later, the world-record transfer fee for a defender has been shattered again, this very evening — in the midst of that purgatorial vacuum between Christmas and New Year when nobody knows what day it is — by Liverpool Football Club on Virgil van Dijk.
This has unfolded at such a pace that it feels we’re all digging out a cabinet full of emotions we locked away and thought we’d never reconnect with again, such was the furore around the summer move which didn’t materialise. Yet, the club have managed to negotiate this entangled deal covertly and with enough tact to get it over the line in a timely enough manner which enables us all to find another cause to reach for the ale you swore you were done with when you woke up this morning.
Attention has now already turned to the fee, with some Liverpool fans baffled by such a show of intent from owners that people have already made up their mind on, to fans of other club’s sniggering uncomfortably at the price tag for some kind of self-indulgent moral victory in the hope Liverpool have been ripped off.
For all you think or don’t about the fee, it is something that requires only one thing from the player himself; that he carries it.
That alone may feel big and fundamental to everything but it isn’t. Sometimes, just the notion of a £75million player is enough for it to reverberate positively in other ways.
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) 27 December 2017
Suddenly, Liverpool’s 10 players stood in the tunnel are puffing out their chests a few inches more because they have a record-breaking defender. Suddenly, opposition forwards are finding themselves with less belief and fillips of hope when lining up against a mass of misconceptions around a Liverpool defence. Suddenly, Anfield as a collective is a little less anxious every time there is a dead-ball situation within a yard of our own half and the ball looks like it might enter the box.
Don’t take for granted just how much this is what we want and have wanted for such a long time. For Liverpool to emerge top of the food chain, to show guts and determination to players who need to be sold a vision for success. If van Dijk, can harness and embrace the reputation bestowed on him as the best defender that money can buy, then the benefits across the scale to this Liverpool team are boundless.
Make no mistake; this is a mettlesome piece of business by Liverpool Football Club for a player that they believe, in time, and time is important to this, will be a key part to achieving what we all collectively desire. They haven’t panicked, been discouraged or loathing in any way. Instead this has been resilient, calculated and ambitious.
I watched the player closely enough at Anfield in The Reds’ 3-0 victory this season to know what he can bring under the right circumstances. I thought he was quietly very good at doing everything on the pitch the opposition right sided centre-back should’ve been doing, yet was being failed miserably by his teammates and management.
I looked at him that day and seen a serious footballer. One who in the right side, with the right surroundings, could potentially be an absolute colossus. That opportunity has now arisen for the player and club alike.
These are incredibly exciting times to be a Liverpool supporter. This is piece by electrifying piece, and by god all the pieces matter.
Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray it might come true. Baby then there wouldn’t be a single thing we couldn’t do. Up big Virgil’s swaggeringly ballsy Reds. To drink.