Image of Virgil Van Dijk.

After Liverpool rounded off the season with a top four qualifications that guaranteed them a champion league spot, albeit with a playoff to navigate before entering the group stage, Jurgen Klopp hinted that work was already at advanced stage of discussions with his summer targets. That piece of information set all Liverpool fans agog; as expected, Red fans were already  dreaming of players like Virgil Van Dijk,Naby Keita, Oxalade Chamberlain, Douglas Costa etc donning the famous red shirt of Liverpool next season.

When the news leaked out from authentic newspaper sources that Virgil Van Dijk had chosen to move to Anfield instead of other clubs with great spending power, the joy amongst Liverpool fans knew no bounds. The disappointment that came in the wake of that good tiding is already well-document. However, the varied reactions that followed the aborted move for VVD gave shape to the topical thrust of this article.

The event that played out after Southampton reported Liverpool to the Premier League Board over what they termed inappropriate advances towards their player without their permission; and Liverpool’s tacit admission of guilt by their hasty apology to the Saints and their equally swift termination of their pursuit of Van Dijk – angered the fan in no small measures.

Tantrums were thrown left, right and centre to those who allegedly bungled the Van Dijk’s affair. Nobody in the club hierarchy was spared the scathing criticism of the aggrieved fans – not even the universally loved Jurgen Klopp.

The whole affair was branded as an embarrassment to a club of Liverpool’s global standing. Criticisms were aimed at the FSG group over their alleged miserliness when it came to loosening the purse string to procure marquee signings.

Critics outside the club circle quickly dredged up a similar offense Liverpool had committed in the past when they made illicit advances in the pursuit Clint Dempsey’s signature under Brendan Rodgers.

At this very moment the club fans are still seething with rage.Their primary target has slipped through the hands of the club’s recruiting team for the umpteeth time.

What most commentators on the Van Dijk affairs may have glossed over is the possibilty that Liverpool may have executed a cleverly calculated gamble in their pursuit of Van Dijk, and the deal for the coveted Southampton’s central half may not be completely dead.

Before pursuing and expanding on this line of reasoning, certain facts about the much-sought –after Virgil Van Dijk have to be put in the right context . And more importantly the peculiarities of clubs reported to be after his signature and the stance of his current club need to be factored into what has played out so far in the VVD’s affair.

  • Van Dijk, despite his long injury lay-off last season, is courted by three Premier League big spenders – Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool.

 

  • There is a consensus amongst football experts that the towering Dutch Central half is one of the best in that position in the league last season.

 

  • Of all the three clubs in contention for his signature, Liverpool based on its budgetary spending on players’ purchase cannot come out top in a bidding war for VVD’s signature.

 

  • Southampton, from a business angle, would desire a bidding war among clubs vying for VVD’s signature with the hope of getting maximum amount of money from his sale.

Southampton’s Position
Southampton before the league ended had watched the interest on their star play with keen attention. What was fixed in their calculation was that the asking price would start from 50 million dollars , benchmark for elite Premier league defenders set by John Stones when he moved from Everton to City for that whooping sum of money . What the Saints couldn’t determine was the exact amount to sell VVD when the season ended. Only an auction could determine that and they waited patiently for the season to end.

Liverpool’s Position
Liverpool knowing the odds were massively against them in the pursuit of their number one target, elected to follow a different pathway that they believe would eventually tilt the contest in their favour. A bidding war with City and Chelsea was a risk the Reds could not take .

The Reds concentrated on winning VVD’s consent by selling him the result-oriented project that was unfolding at Anfield under Klopp’s direction.

It is believed that VVD’s national team mate and Liverpool’s mid-fielder Georgino Wijnaldum played a crucial role in talking VVD into favouring Anfield ahead of Etihad and Stamford Bridge. The charisma of klopp, Liverpool’s brand of all-round pressing game and the assurance of playing regularly may also have played a part in making up his mind to move to Anfiled.

Several news outlets have stated, with a high level of certainty, that Klopp actually met with VVD, or at least had a Skype chat with him, where he discussed amongst other issues how he would be utilized when he eventually moved to Anfield next season.

What followed was the calculated game Liverpool’s recruitment team made, which has been wrongly described as an amateurish move. The club recruitment team appeared to have deliberately instructed the press to publish VVD’s decision to move to Liverpool.

This move which superficially looks like a blunder appears to have been calculated to scare other suitors away, suitors who may have also spoken to VVD personally.

Speaking to VVD without the Saints’ permission was an infraction against the laid down rules of recruiting a player.But it is a well known fact that most clubs do it, Southampton inclusive.It is also very likely that the Saints knew all along that VVD’s suitors were speaking to him in defiance of the above-stated rule.It was the necessary build up to the bidding war they have long awaited.

When the news hit the public that VVD had chosen to move to Anfield, as expected Southampton were enraged – their longed-hoped-for bidding war was about to be terminated by Liverpool’s action. A hasty complain was laid to the FA.  Manchester City and Chelsea knowing that finance was not the factor that influenced VVD’s decision knew they had no other hand to play in their pursuit of the central half – Liverpool had seemingly beaten them in the race to sign VVD.

If my hypothesis is anything to rely on, Liverpool at this juncture is playing a waiting game. Naturally, the next course of action is for VVD to force a move. Southampton, despite all their talk of not being under any financial constraint to sell VVD, would sell at the right price. They are not having European engagement, a competition a player of VVD’s caliber should be competing in at this stage of his career. Beside, no club can keep and unhappy player desirous of furthering his career in another club against his express wishes. This is a fact Liverpool is well aware of. The Toress, Macheranos, Suarezs and Sterlings have taught Liverpool this bitter lesson in recent years.

To the Red fans smarting over their club’s handling of VVD’s affair: the last has not been heard of their club’s pursuit of the Saints’ defender.The die is cast. All Liverpool need to do to get their top target is for VVD to resist, as he has already down, overtures from other clubs; insist on moving to Liverpool. If the Saint continue to play hardball he can submit a transfer request.

At some points during the current transfer window when the frosty relationship between Liverpool and Southampton has thawed sufficiently, the Merseysiders would in all likelihood submit a mouth-watering bid which the Saints may find hard to refuse. When this eventuality plays out: then those hasty critics of Liverpool’s initial handling of VVD’s pursuit would come to realize that there are several ways to kill a rat, as the idiom goes. What has now been described as a bungled affairs by fans, rival clubs and pundits would be seen for what it was –  A cleverly calculating plan of shrewd negotiators operating with guile and quick thinking in a hyper-inflated football market.

 

The Southampton take on Virgil van Dijk – Liverpool should get transfer ban but player still favourite to end up at Anfieldhttp://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/sport/football/transfer-news/liverpool-van-dijk-transfer-ban-13189470