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Liverpool

Virgil Van Dijk signing shows that Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have elite ambitions

Martyn Cooke

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Virgil Van Dijk
Photo: Reuters

The news that Liverpool had secured the signing of Southampton central defender Virgil van Dijk for £75 million has raised plenty of eyebrows around the footballing world this week.

Many onlookers have questioned the astronomical fee that the Reds have paid, a world record for a defender, and whether the arrival of the Dutchman will be enough to correct the defensive frailties that have undermined the progress that Jurgen Klopp has facilitated in the last couple of seasons. However, the arrival of van Dijk represents something more significant – that Liverpool have ambitions to challenge the elite of European football once again.

Since the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) completed their £300 million takeover of the club in October 2010 success on the pitch has eluded them. Despite an array of near-misses the reality is that Liverpool have won just one piece of silverware in seven years, the League Cup triumph in 2012, and have had to watch as their rivals, predominantly Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea, have climbed onto a metaphorical superior level.

Despite this, FSG have progressed the club in other areas. Under their ownership Liverpool have signed a genuine world-class manager in Klopp, transformed Anfield with the development of the main stand and committed to building a new first-team training facility. With a solid foundation now in place, the club must now find a way to start securing silverware.

Committing £75 million to purchase van Dijk is a statement of their intent.

Manchester City and Manchester United have made significant investments in new signings over the previous eighteen months to enable Pep Guardiola and Jose Mouirnho respectively to build teams capable of challenging for domestic and continental silverware. In truth, they have left Liverpool behind in the transfer market, something that has been reflected by their on-pitch success.

However, there are signs that FSG are no longer content with the Merseyside outfit being second-best.

The club hierarchy are backing Klopp to the full and the charismatic German has begun to build a youthful squad that is full of attacking flair and creativity. Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and now van Dijk have all arrived in big-money deals whilst Naby Keita is also set to arrive at Anfield in the summer. Suddenly Liverpool appear to be willing to challenge the two Manchester clubs in the transfer marker and their ability to prise van Dijk from the Guardiola’s clutches further emphasises that fact.

It has been no secret that Liverpool have a soft underbelly and that the team’s defensive frailty has often undermined their undoubted attacking qualities. Whether the arrival of van Dijk will suddenly rectify the defensive issues at Anfield is debateable and only time will tell how successful the Dutchman will be. However, the fact that FSG are now willing to go toe-to-toe with the other Premier League superpowers can only be construed as a positive by the club’s supporters.

The signing of van Dijk, coupled with other big-money moves for Mane, Salah and Keita, suggests that Liverpool are no longer content to play second fiddle in the race for silverware. It is a definitive sign that FSG are willing to challenge their rivals in the transfer market and have ambitions to retain the club’s place among the elite of European football.

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

English Premier League

Rhian Brewster deserves shot at Liverpool first-team next season

The Liverpool teenager deserves a shot ahead of Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi.

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Liverpool fans were rightly excited about England under-17s World Cup win in India last summer. Firstly, it was great to see the English national team doing well at some level. Secondly, one of their own players, Rhian Brewster, was on fire.

The teenage striker won the Golden Boot prize at the competition after scoring eight goals for his nation, including hat-tricks against both the USA and Brazil.

His performances rightly had Liverpool fans excited for the season ahead, but it came too soon for the youngster. Brewster then suffered an ankle injury in January that needed surgery.

(Photo credit should read DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images)

However, despite his setback, it was reported last month by The Telegraph that Brewster will be promoted to the Liverpool first-team next season after his recovery period is over.

Rightly so. Liverpool should be ready to give the teenager his chance in the first-team at Anfield, as he has all the talent available to him to become a club goalscoring sensation.

In fact, if Liverpool want to be serious about him, they should ensure there are no blockages in his pathway.

The likes of Daniel Sturridge, currently on loan at West Brom, and Divock Origi, also on loan but at German side Wolfsburg, should no longer be considered ahead of Brewster in the pecking order.

Getting rid of the injury-prone Sturridge and Origi, who has struggled in the Bundesliga, will leave Brewster firmly in the mix for the striking position at Liverpool.

(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Roberto Firmino obviously remains the first choice. But Liverpool also have England’s under-20 goalscoring sensation from the summer in Dominic Solanke. With the hard-working Danny Ings also present, Brewster fits in nicely to the Liverpool striking fold.

Some might say he is too young. But people said that about Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler. The fact is, nobody will know until he is thrown into that position.

Liverpool fans are some of the more supportive and understanding in the country when it comes to young talent, and would have all the patience in the world for the young striker.

It is time to cut the deadwood and make room for the future to blossom.

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Bolton Wanderers

Trent Alexander-Arnold World Cup push is deja-vu for Jon Flanagan and Liverpool

The Liverpool defender has had his problems on and off the pitch but is performing well at Bolton Wanderers.

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Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold has emerged as a late challenger for the England World Cup squad this summer. The teenage defender has been in incredible form for Liverpool in 2018.

His performances against Manchester City in both legs of the recent Champions League win earned mass praise and plenty of Liverpool fans are of the belief that Alexander-Arnold should be in the England squad.

It seems a bit like deja-vu from four years ago. Back then, England were again preparing for a World Cup – this time in Brazil. Once again, Liverpool were in fine form toward the end of that season and narrowly missed out on the Premier League title to Manchester City.

One of the main reasons for their excellent season was the form of young full-back Jon Flanagan. The then 21-year-old defender came in and solved Brendan Rodgers’ left-back problem with aplomb.

He featured in 25 games that season and pushed his way, much like Alexander-Arnold, into England contention.

(Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

In the summer, he was named on the England standby list for the World cup and made his debut in a warm-up game against Ecuador. This should have been the start of something brilliant for the young man.

But the four years since have been a disappointment for the Liverpool man.

That summer a build-up of fluid on his knee led to investigations which in turn led to corrective surgery. Flanagan went on to spend what should have been his crowning years on the treatment table. After spending 18 months on the sidelines he eventually returned, but to a new Liverpool.

Under Jurgen Klopp, first-team football was hard to find. He headed to Burnley on loan last season but found himself not able to break into the first-team at Turf Moor either.

Since that near World Cup miss, football has continuously kicked Flanagan while he has been down and he has also had well-documented problems off the pitch as well.

But there is now a glimmer of hope. In January the defender headed to Bolton Wanderers on loan, to try and help the Trotters fight off relegation to League One and put his recent problems behind him.

Now established as a first-team regular he is getting back to fine form.

Whilst it may come too late to salvage his Liverpool career, there does appear to be a future for Flanagan in the game.

A lot of bad luck has hit the defender so far, whilst his off-field issues have also not helped matters. But, hopefully, he can turn things around and build a career Liverpool fans thought he might back in 2014.

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Liverpool

Liverpool identify Sevilla defender Clement Lenglet as Virgil Van Dijk’s perfect partner

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Photo: Getty Images.

After signing Virgil Van Dijk in January to begin a rebuilding project in defence, Liverpool could now look to Seville for the next addition and a long-term partner for the Dutchman, with that man being Clement Lenglet.

According to Spanish newspaper SPORT, Liverpool have entered the race to sign the Frenchman alongside Barcelona as interest in the youngster hots up.

The reports indicate that the defender has a release clause set as low as €30 million (£26.1 million) and as such would be a bargain addition in the summer, particularly given the price tag that other players of a similar quality would demand.

(Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

In his first full season in Spain, Lenglet has established a reputation as one of La Liga’s finest defenders, immediately becoming one of the first names on the Sevilla team-sheet under the management of both Eduardo Berizzo and Vincenzo Montella.

At 22-years-old, Lenglet has huge potential and already has four seasons of experience at first team level in France with Nancy and now in the south of Spain.

Good on the ball and strong in the tackle, he is exactly the mould of defender that Jurgen Klopp has looked for previously by signing the likes of Van Dijk and Joel Matip.

Whether a deal is realistic may be another matter given Barcelona’s interest, but it would certainly be one worth pursuing for Liverpool if they do have hopes of mounting a title challenge in the Premier League next season.

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