Former Liverpool manager Graeme Souness has suggested in The Times that Pep Guardiola made a mistake in not signing Ballon d’Or runner-up Virgil van Dijk before his £75m [BBC Sport] move to Merseyside.
The PFA Player of the Year joined Liverpool from Southampton back in January 2018 for a club-record fee and has since emerged as the finest defender on the planet. Since his move, Van Dijk has played in two Champions League finals, won the continental treble and is on course to claim the Reds’ first league title since 1990.
Van Dijk’s influence on Liverpool has been unquantifiable with his then world-record fee for a defender now seeming like small change for the Premier League champions-elect.
Because of this, Souness has claimed that City manager Pep Guardiola should have signed the 28-year-old when he had the chance two years ago.
Souness wrote in The Times: “If Guardiola could turn back the clock two years, to the January transfer window of 2018, he would pay a premium to sign Virgil van Dijk, topping the £75 million that Liverpool paid Southampton for him. I said at the time it was a no-brainer.
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“It’s not the last piece of the jigsaw because Guardiola would never be happy with his lot, but there was never a question of how Van Dijk would handle the Premier League because he had already shown he could after moving south from Celtic.
“For City, with their owners, there will always be a premium to be paid for a player, it’s how big that premium is. There are deals they just have to take on the chin, and Van Dijk was one of them.”
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Souness is right. City’s loss has been Liverpool’s gain. To put into perspective just how important Van Dijk has been for Liverpool since his arrival is all-but an impossible task.
The Netherland’s captain has been one of the club’s most transformative signings in the club’s illustrious 127-year history. Van Dijk has almost single-handedly – alongside Alisson Becker – moulded Liverpool’s once vulnerable and leaky back-line into the most formidable defensive unit in European football.
He’s like a Rolls-Royce in terms of the combination of his brutal strength and blistering speed. The man simply doesn’t have a weakness. If the opposition chooses to press high and keep the full-backs penetrated in their own half, Van Dijk then has the ability to pick up loose balls and spread 50-yard passes without breaking a sweat.
With the aerial prowess of Virgil van Dijk — coupled with the pinpoint accuracy of dead-ball specialist Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool have unlocked a new element to their game in terms of set-pieces.
At set plays — from free kicks, corners and throws — in the Premier League, Liverpool managed just eight goals in the entire 2017-18 season. That figure leapt to a huge 14 figure number for 2018-19 and they are on nine so far this term.
Van Dijk, whose eight-goal haul in the PL since joining the Reds two years ago is more than any other centre-back in the division – oh how Guardiola must be kicking himself.