Liverpool’s pursuit of Virgil van Dijk took an ugly turn last month when The Reds were forced to admit wrongdoing in their approach, and subsequently apologize to Southampton, but the saga hasn’t yet met its conclusion.
The BBC have announced that the Dutchman was left out of Southampton’s 25-man pre-season training squad in France, adding fuel to the remaining embers of Liverpool’s interest in sealing his signing.
Speculation aside, let’s look at what Virgil van Dijk could bring to the table at Liverpool next season using WhoScored.com’s player comparison feature.
Arguably the most telling statistic that separates Virgil van Dijk from Liverpool’s three centre-halves is his Aerials Won average, at 4.7 per game. That not only places him head and shoulders above Liverpool’s current options, but at the very top for defenders in the Premier League last season.
Liverpool are known for their vulnerability from set-pieces and could benefit significantly with the Dutchman’s colossal presence in such situations.
According to WhoScored.com’s rating system, Virgil van Dijk produced Man of the Match displays on three occasions last season, and boasts an overall 7.43 rating. While all of Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan performed admirably in spells last season, none of them returned game-changing or headline-writing performances, something that the Southampton man has in his locker.
Virgil van Dijk is no slouch with the ball at his feet, either, maintaining a solid 84.2% passing accuracy ratio last season. Still, this is less than all three of Liverpool’s current options and, given Jurgen Klopp’s preference to build-up from the back, is an area that would need improvement.
Another area of minor concern for Liverpool’s recruitment team regards his minutes played. His 1854 minutes ranks well below Dejan Lovren (2555) and Joel Matip (2456), Liverpool’s current first-choice central defensive partnership, and even they were subject to criticism for lacking consistency (played only 18 games alongside each other in the Premier League last season).
Liverpool’s defence was the difference between presenting a serious threat to title-winners Chelsea and settling for a top-four spot last season. Though Virgil van Dijk would demand a premium, perhaps a fee in the range of £60 million, his Premier League-proven abilities make it obvious why Liverpool are looming, but even more so why Southampton are reluctant to sell.