In the latest update in one of the longest-running transfer sagas of the summer, the Daily Mail understand that Liverpool are starting to gain momentum in their move for defender Virgil van Dijk.
It is thought that the Southampton centre-back is to have talks with the club later this week to discuss his uncertain future, with the Dutchman expected to express his desire to move to Liverpool.
This comes just a month after the Merseyside outfit were warned over their unofficial approaches for Van Dijk, but the 26-year-old is allegedly still keen on forcing a move.
If Van Dijk does indeed leave for Anfield before the summer is up, the Daily Mail are claiming that Mauricio Pellegrino is already weighing up a £12 million swoop for Lazio centre-back Wesley Hoedt.
With the Dutch international a bit of an unknown entity in England, would he be a suitable Van Dijk alternative? The Boot Room dissects the key statistics to see if Hoedt can match his compatriot.
One of the main reasons that Liverpool are so intent on signing Van Dijk this summer is due to how impressive he has been at the heart of Southampton’s defence, making their back-line seem impenetrable at times, and winning 67% of his duels last season shows how mammoth a figure he is.
By comparison Hoedt was successful on just 54% occasions, winning less tackles (22) and far less aerial battles (52) than Van Dijk, who has made a name for himself in England as a monster in the air.
In a similar vein, the Southampton man reigns supreme when it comes to interceptions (56 compared to 30), blocks (14 to 9) and clearances (140 to 109), and if anything it doesn’t show that Hoedt is a poor replacement it shows just how hard it will be to replace someone like Van Dijk.
But judging Hoedt’s potential impact against Van Dijk’s legacy seems harsh, as the Lazio man has huge potential to succeed at St Mary’s and has the desire and determination to be a great player.
One thing that new manager Mauricio Pellegrino loves his players to do is have confidence in their own ability on the ball, and remain cool-headed under pressure, and Hoedt has shown this in bags.
In Serie A last season he carved out four key chances and made 1181 passes – 235 more than his fellow Dutchman – highlighting just how comfortable he is in possession, and how well he uses it.
Add the fact that 905 of these passes were forward and it shows that Hoedt possesses a natural tendency to push play forward, a trait Southampton need after scoring just 41 goals in 38 matches.
Yet it’s not just in defence where centre-backs can make their mark and, after watching former defender Jose Fonte score 15 goals at St Mary’s, being a threat from set-pieces is an important trait.
Hoedt comes out on top on this occasion, scoring twice in his 23 Serie A appearances last year, whilst Van Dijk managed to find the net once in the 4-1 dismantling by Tottenham over Christmas.
But although Van Dijk has the better goal-scoring record overall (seven in 64 Southampton games) in comparison to his fellow countryman (two in 46 Lazio games), Hoedt’s size, physical presence and his pure willingness to make himself a nuisance in the box means that he will be a dangerous outlet.