Virgil van Dijk was always going to be a wanted man this summer, the talented Dutchman is one of the few players in the premier league who has the ability, when at his best, to make the game look easy.
Recent reports have suggested that Liverpool would be the preferred destination for the player, choosing Anfield over potential suitors such as Manchester City and Chelsea. This will no doubt frustrate many Saints fans as they have seen a number of departures all heading in the direction of the Melwood training complex over the last few seasons.
Were Van Dijk to join Liverpool he would be the sixth player to make the move since 2014. Joining big name players such as Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne, and Dejan Lovren to leave the Saints in favour of the Reds.
Southampton have made it clear that they want to keep hold of their Team captain and arguably their best player. The board at St Marys have been under criticism over their transfer policy with Van Dijk possibly the latest name on a long list of high profile departures. There have been questions over the ambition at the club, but you have to admire the system in place on the south coast. They seem immune to the loss of key players, with a strong scouting network and the touted ‘Black Box’ database containing a list of potential replacements allowing the club to be fully prepared for any possible sales.
It is expected that this summer will be no different for the Saints with several first team players linked with moves away. However, key players such as left back Ryan Bertrand, player of the season Oriol Romeu and Van Dijk himself have all been tied down on long contracts. Van Dijk is only 12 months into a six-year deal. In doing so Southampton have strengthened their position if any transfer were to take place, any potential suitors know they will have to part with a large fee if they are to take any of the Saints prized assets.
Liverpool know they will have to break their record transfer fee which stands at £35m and more likely a world record fee for a defender in excess of £50m if they are to sign him. While Southampton are likely to have to release a percentage of the fee to previous club Celtic would the touted £50m + be too much to turn down?
Southampton today intensified matters by reporting the Reds to the Premier League for an “illegal approach” of Van Dijk. This will likely lead to the Premier League and FA authorities asking the Reds for their explanations on the matter before anything more consequential happens.
However this could to all intents and purposes, be a power play by Southampton to strengthen their position as the selling club before moving into negotiations; but also to keep their own fans happy. They want to be seen to be playing ‘hard ball’, to get the best deal for the club and make any exit look like it has been instigated by the player and his agent.
Southampton have been proved proficient at acquiring vast transfer fees for players in recent years, with a sum in the region of £60m rumoured to be the asking price for Van Dijk this would leave the Saints in a strong position in terms of recruitment for the rest of the summer transfer window. With this is mind it is likely that if the player wants to move, he may well get his wish.