Virgil van Dijk will present a stumbling block to centre-back signings over the next couple of years.
There’s a problem with them, however – Van Dijk.
If Liverpool look to sign a centre-back, it only makes sense as a long-term replacement for Van Dijk. It doesn’t make sense to replace Joe Gomez as he’s only 22 and clearly the future.
Then there’s Joel Matip, who is currently third-choice but a brilliant defender. So in short, Liverpool don’t need a centre-back for right now.
Any player would start as fourth-choice, so you’re investing in a long-term future, rather than an immediate impact.
That long-term future is in a partnership with Gomez, then. But it’s difficult to cultivate a partnership with any new signing because of Van Dijk’s importance.
The £75m Dutchman is absolutely vital and plays every important game. You can’t leave him out without the team suffering and that’s a problem.
Take Upamecano, for instance. The prospect of a long-term partnership between Gomez and him is incredibly exciting. It would likely be the best in the world.
But if Liverpool signed him now, he’d only play when Gomez didn’t. He’d essentially split his game time with the player he’s supposed to partner. That’s difficult – especially as Van Dijk shouldn’t start slowing down for years, leaving signings to rotate with one player.
Is it worth spending money on a centre-back when the result is Gomez getting fewer games? Almost certainly not. It just doesn’t seem like value for money.
Upamecano, or another top player, won’t want to be fourth-choice. They won’t even want to be second or third, really. But Van Dijk’s dominance leaves just one space open at the back and the Reds already have a top player to fill it in Gomez.