The Reds went into deadline with Paul Joyce of The Times revealing manager Jürgen Klopp planned to go on a £175million spending spree, with the arrival of the Southampton centre-back expected to eat up a large chunk of that change.
Just as other teams were scrambling to meet the 11pm deadline, Chris Bascombe of The Telegraph explained that Liverpool hadn’t been able to make secure the Dutchman with Saints not prepared to sell him.
He suggested the club would revisit their interest as early as January but would be prepared to wait until next summer. It was a cliffhanger fans could have done without having seen a deal for Thomas Lemar also fail.
As part of their apology in early June, Liverpool agreed to not make a move for the former Celtic man unless another team bid first or Southampton invited the Reds to table an offer.
Neither of these scenarios played out, and despite the player doing his best to push for a move, Klopp and the recruitment team had to watch on knowing they couldn’t bring in their top transfer target.
At least not yet.
But with there being no guarantees that Southampton will want to do business with Liverpool again, should the Reds move on from the 26-year-old? When is it time to say ‘enough is enough’?
After all, there are plenty of other centre-backs out there who would be an improvement on Dejan Lovren. The Croatian has had a topsy turvy start to the 2017/18 campaign and if this erratic form continues the Reds are likely going to concede a number of soft goals.
It’s not something that should be happening on a regular basis when you’re playing Champions League football.
While the game is short of world class centre-backs these days, there are still players out there who could have arrived and have an impact on the Liverpool squad immediately.
The Reds didn’t have to sign someone of van Dijk’s ilk, either. They could have changed tact and gone with a centre-back with a lot of potential. They wouldn’t be perfect but isn’t it better to put the time in with a centre-back who could improve as opposed to Lovren who looks as though he’s found his level?
The possible van Dijk alternatives
Spurs bought in two centre-backs this summer. Davinson Sanchez arrived from Ajax in a deal reported to be in the region of £43million and Juan Foyth joined him from Estudiantes for just a little over £10million.
Of the pair it’s Sanchez who could have done a job for the red half of Merseyside. He’s powerful in the air, calm when defending the channels, he’s used to playing in a high line, and he’s comfortable when tasked with having to play football out from the back.
Oh yeah, he also cost £30million less than what many expected Liverpool to pay for van Dijk.
It’s a similar story with Kalidou Koulibaly. The prices quoted for the imposing 25-year-old vary from between £35million to £50million. It’s not a fee to make the club baulk considering they were prepared to pay north of that top number for van Dijk, Naby Keïta and Thomas Lemar this summer.
Liverpool could have revisited their interest in Bayer Leverkusen’s Jonathan Tah. The German defender has been continuously linked with a move to Anfield ever since Klopp was appointed as Reds boss back in October 2015.
The rumour mill went into overdrive when he was pictured at the Europa League final during Liverpool’s defeat to Sevilla at the end of the 2015/16 season but a move never materialised due to the Reds missing out on Champions League football.
However, after a disappointing 2016/17 season it was Liverpool, armed with a place in Europe’s elite competition, who didn’t return for Tah.
One-time Manchester City transfer target Aymeric Laporte could have been looked at as an alternative to van Dijk this summer. With Champions League and the chance to work under Klopp on offer there’s a high chance the 23-year-old could have been tempted with a move to Anfield.
The highly rated 22-year-old may have only signed a new contract with the dominant Ligue 1 side in November but it doesn’t mean all is well.
Klopp wanted van Dijk
But it’s clear that Klopp didn’t want any centre-back this summer. He wanted van Dijk. It seemingly wasn’t about a positional upgrade like many claimed and more to do with an individual.
While it’s no doubt frustrating to hear quotes from the manager saying he’s happy with the defence after he tried to bring in a £70million-rated centre-back, he does mean it. In the eyes of the Liverpool manager the only defender he wanted this summer, the only one he believed brought exactly what he wanted to his starting XI, was van Dijk.
And it’s these reasons why the pursuit for van Dijk won’t be over until he’s in the red of Liverpool or unless he joins another team. The latter doesn’t look likely with the player seemingly believing Anfield is the best possible destination for his development, meaning Liverpool’s pursuit of van Dijk seems far from over.