It was in early 2017 that Liverpool’s recruitment team came to a conclusion that would ultimately help the club go on to win the Premier League and Champions League. The Reds needed Virgil van Dijk.
Not wanted. Needed. The analysis had been done, the scouting reports filed, the approval of Jurgen Klopp received. Liverpool would go all out to sign the Dutchman.
As it transpired, the club went a bit too hard. Stories emerged that Klopp had met van Dijk in a hotel in Blackpool to discuss a move.
Terms were then agreed with the defender before the Reds had even made an official approach to Southampton.
Understandably irked, the Saints reported Liverpool to the Premier League in June 2017.
The Merseyside club were forced to then publish a rather humbling statement and supposedly drop their interest.
Liverpool Football Club would like to put on record our regret over recent media speculation regarding Southampton Football Club and player transfers between the two clubs,” it read.
“We apologise to the owner, board of directors and fans of Southampton for any misunderstanding regarding Virgil van Dijk.
We respect Southampton’s position and can confirm we have ended any interest in the player.”
Liverpool’s climbdown left them in a rather awkward situation. They needed a centre-back that summer but, so convinced were they that van Dijk was the option, didn’t bring one into Anfield.
The Reds started the 2018/19 campaign with Dejan Lovren, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan as their central defenders.
“We cannot force things and we would never get a centre-back just because someone is available,” Klopp said. “
Look out there and tell me five that would make us stronger. You win a prize [if you can]. It’s difficult.”
Liverpool, despite what the club claimed in that statement, never ended their interest in van Dijk.
They waited patiently and eventually paid whatever it took to land the Dutch international. A deal worth £75million was struck in December 2017.