Liverpool are believed to have joined a host of top European clubs in the race to sign Southampton centre-back Virgil van Dijk this summer.
Van Dijk has risen to the fore as one of the Premier League‘s best defensive talents since joining the Saints from Celtic in 2015, with 2016/17 a standout campaign.
The Dutchman took over as captain at St Mary’s following the departure of former centre-back partner Jose Fonte, and has helped his side keep eight clean sheets in 21 league games this term.
An ankle injury has seemingly ended Van Dijk’s season, but that has not deterred sides pushing for his signature this summer, with the Reds among those interested.
According to reliable Liverpool journalist Tony Barrett, “Jurgen Klopp has identified van Dijk as his favoured option as he looks to bolster his defence this summer.”
He claims that, despite Chelsea, Man City, Real Madrid and Everton also chasing the 25-year-old, securing Champions League football this season puts Klopp’s side in a favourable position.
Southampton are said to value Van Dijk at £50 million, but their interest in Mamadou Sakho could be used as a bargaining chip.
Liverpool are looking for a fee of around £30 million for the out-of-favour Frenchman, who has been in excellent form since joining Crystal Palace on loan in January.
Interest in Van Dijk has been reported by the majority of the Liverpool press gang, with Klopp set to handed a significant kitty in the upcoming transfer market.
The Mail‘s Dominic King writes that Fenway Sports Group are “prepared to spend heavier than they have ever done before,” with the Times‘ Paul Joyce also mirroring that.
RB Leipzig’s Naby Keita is also mooted as a priority target in midfield, though the Guinean is less likely to move on this summer than Van Dijk.
Van Dijk has arguably outgrown Southampton after just two seasons on the south coast, and is a talent who should be plying his trade for one of Europe’s elite.
Liverpool will be striving to reach that level with a top-four finish this season, with Klopp eager to seal Champions League football.
Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren, Ragnar Klavan, Lucas Leiva and Joe Gomez are Klopp’s current centre-back options, but Van Dijk is a step up from any of those at this stage.
And with Matip and Lovren both suffering regular injury problems this season, and Lucas’ future still up in the air, signing a top-class centre-back should be high on the Reds list this summer.