Steven Gerrard says Liverpool's European hopes rest on Virgil van Dijk - is he correct?
Liverpool’s pursuit of Virgil van Dijk appeared to end back in June, when Southampton accused the Anfield club of ‘tapping up’ their talismanic defender. However, club legend Steven Gerrard has urged manager Jurgen Klopp to revive his interest in the want-away Dutchman, who handed in a transfer request earlier this month.
Gerrard, who made more than 500 appearances for Liverpool in a distinguished career, believes signing van Dijk is essential if the Reds are to challenge for honours. When asked about the Saints player on BT Sport, and as quoted in the Liverpool Echo, Gerrard said: “For me, if you want to compete in the Champions League (van Dijk is needed). It’s been well documented that we need two or three signings in.”
Liverpool have made three additions this summer, with Andrew Robertson and Dominic Solanke following the high-profile capture of Mohamed Salah from Roma. Many Liverpool supporters will be desperate for the transfer window to close so the ‘will he, won’t he’ saga involving Philippe Coutinho can be put to bed.
The club’s owners, FSG, have repeatedly stated Coutinho is not for sale, amid strong interest from Barcelona. However, holding on to their play maker may not be enough for Liverpool to remain a force, with Gerrard of the opinion that Klopp needs to do more business before the end of August.
Central defence has been an area of concern since Klopp arrived at Anfield nearly two years ago. Although last season showed a marked improvement, Liverpool still conceded 42 goals en route to finishing fourth in the Premier League. The opening-day 3-3 draw with Watford did nothing to suggest that they have enough quality at the back to compete both domestically and in the Champions League this campaign.
Van Dijk joined Southampton from Celtic for a bargain £13 million in 2015 and has grown into one of the most sought-after central defenders in Europe. Now a fully-fledged Dutch international, it is no surprise that he has been linked with a number of top clubs. Van Dijk is as comfortable on the ball as he is without it and, importantly, he possesses leadership qualities.
An authoritative voice at the back is something Liverpool have lacked in recent years. Competition for silverware is only going to increase this season in light of the astronomical summer spending. Gerrard is right; van Dijk could be the difference for the Reds. However, time is rapidly running out for Klopp to make this happen.