Sepp van den Berg continues to impress following another assured performance for the Reds’ U23s on Friday night after the Netherland’s U19s international capped off a fine individual display in the 3-0 victory against Huddersfield Town with a goal as well as a clean sheet.
The 18-year-old centre-back who was also a target for Ajax, Bayern Munich and PSV Eindhoven joined up with Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool last summer following a £1.3m [BBC Sport] move from PEC Zwolle.
Van den Berg made 15 appearances for PEC Zwolle in the Dutch top-flight last season attracting numerous attention from some of Europe’s biggest heavyweights.
The teenager has featured just once under Klopp for the first-team this season following an enthralling Carabao Cup 5-5 thriller against Arsenal before starting first-team fixtures under Neil Critchley against Aston Villa and during the FA Cup triumph against Shrewsbury Town.
However, considering the youngster cost a sizeable fee for an academy player Van den Berg is looked upon with greater interest than perhaps his fellow U23s teammates.
Also, his Dutch heritage provides even greater appeal from the Liverpool fan base as Van den Berg has been heavily tipped as fellow countryman Virgil van Dijk’s natural successor.
Van Dijk is currently 28 and is operating at the peak of his powers having established himself as comfortably the best central defender in world football following unprecedented success in the Champions League and Premier League since his £75m arrival from Southampton.
His current centre-back partner Joe Gomez, 22, is Liverpool’s long-term option at the heart of the defence which raises the question of who will likely partner the England international once Van Dijk calls it a day on his Anfield tenure.
Whilst this inevitable possibility could be a scenario that doesn’t begin to unfold until potentially five to seven years time considering Van Dijk is showing no present signs of slowing down there is always a tendency for clubs to plan for the future.
There is no doubt that Van den Berg opted to join Liverpool as opposed to other European giants due to the influence of his compatriot Van Dijk. The youngster has a once in a lifetime opportunity to play for the European champions whilst also learning under the tutelage of the UEFA Player of the Year.
This does come with great expectation with some supporters already expecting Van den Berg to be the finished article considering his sizeable signing-on fee in the summer. He was criticised heavily following Liverpool’s 5-0 defeat at Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup quarter-final clash in December whilst the club’s senior figures were participating in the Club World Cup in Qatar.
It’s easy to forget how young Van den Berg is whilst it is also important to remember that defenders typically take longer to develop to their peak than others.
When Van Dijk was Van den Berg’s age, the Netherland’s captain was still establishing himself in the Eredivisie before earning a move to Scottish serial winners Celtic two years later.
The reality is that Van den Berg will take years to grow, but the important thing for the young defender is that he won’t find himself in better surroundings to take his game to the next level.