Liverpool simply must prioritise replacing Virgil van Dijk when they eventually sign a defender. Thoughts of a partnership shouldn’t come into it.
Liverpool reportedly want several centre-halves. From Dayot Upamecano to Ozan Kabak through Ben White – we’ve written about an awful lot of reports over the last few months.
All of the players have one thing in common, though – age. They’re all in their early 20s and appear ready to kick on to the next level.
And that’s important. Finding a long-term player is imperative as Liverpool look at replacing Virgil van Dijk.
This all comes earlier than Liverpool will have wanted. They would have hoped to sign players purely to play with the Dutchman but plans must change.
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After all, we don’t know what kind of player Van Dijk will be when he returns. Nor do we know the long-term implications of his serious knee injury.
It could shorten his time at the top. Perhaps it won’t, of course, but can Liverpool run the risk that it does?
This isn’t us writing him off completely – he could return as good as ever. But the unknowns create a difficult problem.
Van Dijk is the world’s best defender – Liverpool paid £75m for a reason -and the single most crucial player in Liverpool’s team. His decline will make the team worse and they must do everything they can to limit that.
And given the chances that he fades early just increased dramatically, the Reds must bring their long-term plans forward.
So any new defender is less about finding someone to partner Van Dijk. They will at some point, certainly, but more important is finding someone to partner Joe Gomez.
Gomez is still young himself and Liverpool have an opportunity to create a long-term partnership for the post-Van Dijk era.
Thus the most important fit is how they’d play alongside the Englishman. Do they play on the same preferred side as Gomez? Then perhaps look at someone else.
In short, Liverpool will want someone with a style similar to Van Dijk, rather than someone who meshes well with him.
That’s the smart long-term move going forward. It’s a difficult task but it’s the one that gives a much better chance of sustained success for years to come.