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