“TAKE a walk around my centre half, gentlemen, he’s a colossus.”
Jürgen Klopp presenting Virgil van Dijk to the press pack on January 1, 2018.
Well, not actually, Klopp, and not actually van Dijk. These were of course Bill Shankly’s introductory words when presenting his new defensive bulwark, Ron Yeats, in the summer of 1961. Ron was to be the rock upon which Bill was to build his temple. It kind of feels like we might — just might — be back at that moment.
I love the Yeats anecdote. I love how Bill exaggerated Ron’s physicality. I love the allusion to mythology, to legend. This would be an epoch-defining moment, here was a man more god than man. Behold.
Klopp will not refrain these sentiments for Virgil’s introduction, at least not publicly. Few had heard of Yeats. Shankly was saying “but you’ll never forget the name from here on in”. The world knows van Dijk’s name. It’s a fantastic name. But beyond that are the facts, the stats. Virgil is the world’s most expensive defender. We’ve all seen what he can do. He’s no best kept secret. He needs no introduction.
Privately though, maybe within the sanctity of a dressing room, Klopp will be brimming, gleeful. “I told you I’d sort it, boys. Take a look at him, lads. Maybe one last look, because with my Virgil behind you, you’ll never need to look back again. My Virgil will always have your backs.”
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) 28 December 2017
Reportedly, van Dijk will be at Anfield for Leicester City’s visit. How could he resist being there? I hope we do a presentation to the crowd thing. It’s not a very Liverpool thing to do, but fuck it. I’d have him brought onto the pitch, draped in ermine and carried shoulder high on a golden Sedan chair.
We just must beat Leicester. We want the points, the momentum, but I want us to do it for the raw pride of it. I want us to put on a show for our honoured guest. Let’s be the best Liverpool we know how to be, from the stands and the terraces to the pitch. Let’s be perfect.
Virgil isn’t just a signing — it’s almost impossible for him to adequately fulfil exalted expectations — he’s more a symbol of what we are becoming, of where we feel we deserve to be. Van Dijk deserves Liverpool and Liverpool deserves van Dijk.
I’m imagining a Leicester fan chancing upon this “preview”. They’re scratching their head. What are Liverpool on? It’s just one lad you’re buying. Yeah, I know mate, but this is what we do. We go nuts. We can’t do it any other way.
I don’t care what any of them think of me, us, Virgil just right now. This moment in our time is ours alone and they can all get to fuck. I’m looking forward to see photos in the Sunday papers of a contented looking Virgil van Dijk surveying his new kingdom. I want to see the smuggest look of satisfaction ever recorded by a camera.
Leicester are feisty but Liverpool are flames. Only Liverpool stop Liverpool. Leicester don’t get to decide anything. I’m hoping the visitors will be more ambitious than most of our recent opponents though. I think they might well be. They have something about them. They had something we covert more than existence itself. They were league champions. Just two years ago. They are obviously not the force they fleetingly were, but they have the romantic pretensions in their souls that only achieving something incredible could give them.
Liverpool will need to be on fire to burn the always lively Leicester. Liverpool are routinely on fire these days. Occasionally, we’re so hot we end up burning our own house down, but not as often as has become common perception. The real face of Liverpool smashes teams like Swansea City 5-0, beats teams away by 4s and 5s, and puts sevens past European opponents like they don’t even matter.
The proximity of Monday’s game against Burnley means Klopp has to think long and hard about his selection for Saturday. He can go strong as possible. The lads will have not played for four days, and that’s relative respite. This would be the blinkers on approach. It will be tempting.
The nagging doubt the manager will have though will be the memory of his side’s weak showing at Sunderland exactly a year ago. Then his near unchanged, unrested team ended up making a meal of the bottom-placed team. That game was played just 48 hours after the previous one. The juxtaposition is repeated this bank holiday weekend with the Leicester and Burnley games scheduled within hours of each other.
I’m predicting a Klopp reshuffle for Leicester then. Liverpool are strong in breadth and depth. Sitting in the stands will be a further symbol of this growing strength and confidence. Show courage Reds, show pride, give our colossus everything to savour.
Predicted 11: Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Lovren, Milner; Can, Wijnaldum, Lallana; Mane, Solanke, Salah.
Kick off: 3pm
Referee: Neil Swarbrick
Odds: Liverpool 7-20, Draw 11-2, Leicester 10-1