Let’s face it, trying to replicate the influence Virgil van Dijk has had on Liverpool is proving to be an impossible task for the rest of the Premier League. No other domestic club has been able to uncover their own rough diamond to that similarly in the form of the UEFA Player of the Year.
Manchester United had hoped that by breaking the world-record fee Liverpool paid for Van Dijk in order to secure the services of Harry Maguire would have a parallel effect.
However, the former Leicester City defender is yet to have the same effect at Old Trafford to that of Van Dijk who simultaneously transformed Liverpool’s then-struggling back-four into arguably the most formidable force in European football.
Maguire, 26, joined the Red Devils for a gargantuan fee of £80 million in July 2019. The England international was brought in as a quick fix for a long-time shambolic defence but has since failed to live up to his eye-watering price-tag.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United side have already conceded 25 goals in 21 Premier League matches – 11 more than Liverpool despite the Reds having played a game less.
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This is quite concerning for the Red Devils considering they were significantly ahead of Jurgen Klopp’s side both defensively and in terms of points in the league before the January arrival of Van Dijk in 2018.
Liverpool are currently off the back of five consecutive clean sheets and have the best defensive record in the league so far this season – leaking just 14 goals in 20 league matches.
Meanwhile, Maguire and Manchester United have just managed three clean sheets in the former Hull City star’s 21 league appearances for the club. In the time Maguire has joined Old Trafford, Van Dijk is still yet to lose a league match and is currently enjoying a 37 match unbeaten run.
It’s quite staggering to believe the difference in impact considering the almost identical price tags in what is an outrageously inflated market. It also epitomises just how brilliantly Liverpool did in securing the services of their irreplaceable Dutchman.
During that time of uncovering a potential long-term fix for their chaotic defensive issues, Liverpool had tracked in excess of 30 centre-backs from across Europe over an 18-month period.
Van Dijk led the way but Aymeric Laporte, Kalidou Koulibaly and Jerome Boateng also made a shortlist composed by the board. However, the former Southampton defender was viewed in a class of his own and was always the primary target.
In an unforgiving market where your price tag defines not just the progress but also the merit of a player, United have proved yet again that there is no such thing as an instant fix in football.
What initially looked like a panic buy from Klopp and FSG has proven to be one of the most revolutionary signings in the history of English football.