Article by Oliver Wheeler @OliWheeler
I’m going to let you into a little secret – Virgil van Dijk is absolutely quality.
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t much of a secret and I’m sure we all agree that, despite our frustration with everything that happened last summer before we finally secured the 26-year-old’s signature in January, he was well worth the wait.
Jurgen Klopp was adamant that, regardless of our cries for him to go out and ‘just buy a centre back’, he was going to stick by the Dutch international as the player that would take our defence to another level. And fair play to him – he was right.
Although he only played half a season for us, van Dijk was one of our standout performers and it’s likely Liverpool wouldn’t have made the Champions League final without him.
Fast forward to Friday just gone. Reds fans were buzzing to hear they could expect the completion of the signing of French international Nabil Fekir, who had ripped up Ligue 1 last season and, at 24-years-old, is poised to make the next step in becoming one of Europe’s top players.
Instead, we were filled with disappointment when we heard that the deal was off, leaving us with a familiar feeling of frustration.
Some are suggesting the transfer may be resurrected after the World Cup and that once again our German maestro will stand by his man.
However, here’s why I believe Klopp mightn’t hang around to wait for Fekir like he did for van Dijk.
First of all, it sounds like Liverpool weren’t happy with the state of Fekir’s knee following a major injury he sustained a few years back. In fact, it seems that was the main reason the deal was called off.
Therefore, the fact is, if we aren’t happy with his knee now, after him having played the season of his career so far for Lyon, it’s unlikely we’ll be happy with it later this summer – regardless of how well he does with France.
Secondly, Liverpool seem to be trying to get their transfer business done and dusted as early as possible. Fabinho came completely out of the blue and it sounds like we’ve been tracking at least a couple of ‘keepers for a while, with a view to wrapping a deal up sooner rather than later. Not to mention we’re potentially looking to add Xherdan Shaqiri to our ranks.
Klopp likes to get his signings completed early, probably so that he can get them in on the first day of pre-season, integrate them with the lads and so they buy into his philosophy and learn our style as quickly as possible.
If Fekir was to sign after the World Cup – and I’m assuming negotiations wouldn’t exactly be quick and trouble-free given everything that’s happened – he wouldn’t be able to be part of that group as early as the rest.
We saw it with Oxlade-Chamberlain last year. He signed on deadline day but wasn’t regularly featuring for a while because Klopp wanted to blood him in over time. We still did it, and Chamberlain has been a success, but it wasn’t ideal.
The third reason I’m not sure we’ll wait for Fekir is that, unlike with the van Dijk situation, there are a number of players across Europe that we have enquired about and Klopp has shown strong interest in before.
Julian Draxler, who we attempted to sign in January, Christian Pulisic, who we lodged a bid for a year or two ago, and Thomas Lemar, who almost arrived at Anfield last summer, are just three that spring to mind when I think of targets Liverpool have identified that can play in the attacking midfield and wide-forward roles.
Perhaps Klopp’s first choice was Fekir, and that’s why we went all out to sign him, but the fact is that there are other players he admires for this role. And maybe their clubs won’t be as difficult to negotiate with as Lyon, allowing us to strike deals just prior to or during the World Cup.
Don’t get me wrong, maybe we will go back in for Fekir this summer, and if that’s what Klopp wants -great because Fekir is class. But if he doesn’t, we should feel confident that we won’t be waiting another six months for someone to fill the Coutinho-shaped hole that’s still in our squad.
Article by Oliver Wheeler @OliWheeler
For more Redmen TV content including podcasts, subscriber exclusives and three new shows every week subscribe now and get your first month for FREE bit.ly/RMTVjoin