As major clubs around the world put up fortunes to secure the best talent at centre-back, Liverpool have already won the lottery.
There are a host of centre-backs being linked with moves this summer for big fees. Every single one carries some risk, though.
Virgil van Dijk immediately comes to mind. He’s certainly the best defender at Liverpool, arguably the best player in the Premier League, and likely the best defender in the world right now. It’s remarkable to see, considering the doubt when he signed.
Liverpool took a chance on him, shattering the world record when no one else would. They certainly got their reward for that risk. And with fees going through the roof, every elite centre-back is carrying a weight of risk right now.
Manchester City’s business
Both John Stones and Aymeric Laporte cost huge fees from Manchester City. While the former hasn’t quite worked out, the latter has – still, it shows off the risk v reward here as City are reportedly chasing another expensive defender.
Leicester City’s Harry Maguire is supposedly that man. The Mirror claim that a deal may be done with week at £80m, eclipsing Van Dijk’s fee. Now, is Maguire good? Yes. But he’s certainly not on Van Dijk’s level and few would argue that he’s one of the world’s best.
But City need a partner for Laporte and so they’re gambling on Maguire kicking on as Stones didn’t.
Then there’s Matthijs de Ligt. The most in-demand player in the world right now. Juventus are now favourites to land him, with Sky Sports believing the fee to be roughly £62m. The Guardian claim that Juve have offered him a wage of £400,000-a-week – an absolutely staggering amount, worth over twice what Van Dijk is estimated to earn.
De Ligt looks likely to become a truly elite player – possibly one of the greats. But it’s also ‘potential’ right now. If his current ability was his peak, he wouldn’t be worth anything like the amounts being reported. And there’s really no guarantee that he’ll improve to the level desired – it’s merely ‘likely’.
The promise of Joe Gomez
It brings Joe Gomez to mind. The 22-year-old started the season as Van Dijk’s partner and they played together over 17 games before Gomez was injured. In those 17 games, the Reds conceded just ten. Only three times did a team manage more than one goal.
Gomez was fantastic throughout that period. He leaned on Van Dijk a bit, naturally, but showed athleticism, intelligence, and comfort on the ball. Virtually every trait that all the major clubs are desperately searching for.
CIES Football Observatory believes he’s worth around 67m. Watching him, you’d have it down as more – only injuries hold him back.
If he overcomes them, he’s exactly the kind of player Liverpool would dream to have next to Van Dijk. Together, the duo may be superior to any pairing, anywhere in the world.
Not bad for £3.5m in 2015. If Gomez can overcome those injuries, together with Van Dijk, Liverpool have won the centre-back lottery.