A week and a half ago, Liverpool supporters were filled with optimism about the transfer window and the season that lay beyond.
Now, however, following a complete farce of a transfer negotiation involving Jürgen Klopp, Virgil van Dijk and a very angry Southampton, the outlook in the Reds camp could not be more pessimistic.
Supporters, in short, were embarrassed and humiliated by the way van Dijk was pursued and now have very little hope that the club will secure their primary targets ahead of what is a pivotal season in Jürgen Klopp’s tenure as manager of Liverpool Football Club.
To gain insight into the fiasco that is the way Liverpool handled their pursuit of Virgil van Dijk, I had a chat with The Daily Echo’s Adam Leitch.
Right off the bat, can you tell us exactly what went wrong for Southampton to report Liverpool to the Premier League?
Saints were very annoyed by the emergence of a raft of stories from journalists connected with Liverpool which all appeared on the same day at roughly the same time stating that Virgil van Dijk had decided he wanted to join Liverpool.
On top of that, some of the reports stated that van Dijk was impressed by Jürgen Klopp’s personal involvement in the matter.
Both of those things together led Saints to decide there was a case for asking the Premier League to look into whether there had been an illegal approach for the player.
Do you think there is a chance for Liverpool to sign Virgil van Dijk this summer and if so, what will need to happen for that to become a reality?
I think it is unlikely.
Two things would probably have to happen for there to be any chance of it occurring. The first is that van Dijk himself would need to make a huge fuss behind the scenes to try and force the move.
The second is that Liverpool would have to pay a staggering amount of money to get the deal done.
Even then there is a case that Saints might just dig their heels in. They simply don’t need to sell van Dijk this summer, and with Lovren, Lallana, Lambert, Clyne and Mané all being picked off by Liverpool in recent years, they are not too keen to let another go to Anfield, and that resolve has been strengthened by what has taken place.
Do you think Liverpool would meet Southampton’s incredible £70 million asking price if Van Dijk handed in a written transfer request?
I am not in a position to know the answer to that question. I think that is the minimum amount that would be required.
Is there any chance that Liverpool could offer Mamadou Sakho plus cash in a deal for van Dijk or are Southampton determined to hold out for a cash only offer?
The question really is whether Liverpool are going to value van Dijk as value for money at the kind of price Saints want.
No matter what way you cut up the deal, it is going to involve a lot of money.
Van Dijk has now made it clear that he wants a move this summer. If he doesn’t get a move to Liverpool, what does the future hold for him?
Well frankly Saints don’t want to sell him, and I’m not convinced he has yet made it clear he wants to leave.
Regardless, the player signed a six-year contract last summer, and that means Saints are in the driving seat.
Barring some truly horrific injury, Saints know that Van Dijk’s value in a year’s time is unlikely to have reduced given the length of his contract.
They want at least another season out of him, so can afford to play hardball on this one.
I think Saints view it as a case of having to be paid a significant premium on top of van Dijk’s market value to consider letting him go. That will price most clubs out.
Whether Liverpool will go all out and offer crazy money, or Chelsea or Man City will step in remains to be seen.
But it will take serious cash for him to move.
This is a difficult situation due to the fact that Liverpool have already withdrawn their interest in the player in an official statement, but do you think there is actually any way back in for van Dijk for Liverpool given they have publicly backed down and apologised to Southampton?
As I said they need both van Dijk to kick up a stink about it behind the scenes, and then to make a huge offer. Make no mistake though, given the way I get the impression Saints feel about Liverpool right now they would need to offer substantially more than before this happened.
I would think it is unlikely.
Lastly, and this may ruffle a few feathers, do you think Liverpool absolutely need to target van Dijk? Are there better value for money defenders out there that the Reds can target?
In my view, van Dijk is probably just about the best central defender in the Premier League, and definitely the best outside of the established big clubs. He has the class to slot into any team you care to mention, the very biggest of clubs.
There are other good centre-halves out there, but there is a reason clubs the size of Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool are talking of paying a world record fee for a central defender to get him. He is that good.
For any club, even a big side, finding somebody else you could realistically attract who is that good would be very hard. Most players of his calibre are already at massive European clubs.
Many thanks to Adam for answering my questions after getting back from a short holiday.