Liverpool loanee Sepp van den Berg has made huge strides in his development on loan with Preston, and his display against West Brom on Wednesday has got fans purring.
Van den Berg has become something of a forgotten entity on Merseyside, having spent the past year on loan with Preston in the Championship.
After a successful half-season spell with North End last term, the Dutchman agreed to spend the entirety of this campaign at Deepdale, despite interest from a host of other Championship clubs along with sides in Germany, Belgium and Switzerland.
It has paid off for the 20-year-old, who has already made 28 starts this season, settling into his natural position as a centre-back after an extended run as a right wing-back.
Under a new manager in Ryan Lowe – himself a former Liverpool youth player – Van den Berg has played a big part in a revival of Preston’s fortunes, including a standout display in Wednesday’s 2-0 win at West Brom.
The youngster was dominant in the air and on the ground, with his efforts vital in a clean sheet as Emil Riis and debuting loanee Cameron Archer made the difference at the other end.
Such has been the level of Van den Berg’s performances for Preston, and his influence in victory at the Hawthorns, North End supporters took to Twitter to hail their No. 2:
Sep Van Den Berg may be the best defender I’ve ever seen in a Preston shirt. Pay Liverpool whatever they want
— Jordan Roberts (@Jordroberts_) January 26, 2022
Do everything to keep Sepp Van den Berg.
— oliver (@olihargreavess) January 26, 2022
Sepp Van Den Berg emptying his pockets tonight #pnefc pic.twitter.com/du6FyWyCLo
— HParkz10 (@HarvieParker3) January 27, 2022
Let’s be honest, Sepp Van Den Berg Is the best player on earth and Ryan Lowe is the best manager to have graced a touch line? #pnefc
— Dan (@DmPne99) January 27, 2022
I agree. I have been impressed with how he has handled first team football so well, he looks so different to the young lad who first came over playing academy football ?
— Neil Mellor (@NeilMellor33) January 26, 2022
Two huge tackles from van den Berg in the space of 30 seconds. Outstanding focus & defending. #pnefc
— George Hodgson (@GHodgsonSport) January 26, 2022
Just pay the money for Van Den Berg in the summer man, so so so good
— James (@JamesBrightling) January 26, 2022
sepp incredible again tonight
— adam? (@pnefcadam) January 26, 2022
Some Wednesday night that ?? I just don't know what I'm gonna do when Sepp goes…. ??
— Jamie Edwards (@jedwardCLM) January 26, 2022
Van den Berg has already made four appearances for Liverpool, three times in the League Cup and once in the FA Cup, but he struggled to make an early impression with his parent club as he found it hard to adapt.
A year in the Championship – along with the first half of last season with the under-23s – has clearly boosted his progress, and he looks stronger, sharper and more attuned to the demands of English football.
While it remains to be seen whether he will be considered as a long-term option by Jurgen Klopp, his impact at Preston has got Liverpool fans talking too:
Top class performance from Sepp Van Den Berg tonight against West Brom. He was PNE's best defender today. Won 5/6 aerial duels, made 3 interceptions, 2 clearances and 2 very clutch tackles.
— MSC (@Kloppista_LFC) January 26, 2022
Sepp Van Den Berg wins 68% of his aerial duels pic.twitter.com/dOXFooI8wa
— Sam McGuire (@SamMcGuire90) January 26, 2022
I’ve still got very high hopes for Sepp Van Den Berg. This loan move has helped him so much.
— Lewis? (@LewYNWA) January 26, 2022
Sepp van den Berg really is turning into a player btw can’t believe this is the same skinny kid who played for us
— dean (@deanregan__) January 26, 2022
Sepp van den Berg was playing in the Eredivisie at 16.
Clearly, he’s talented, but our fans have developed a bad habit of forming opinions on young players based on tiny sample sizes. Neco Williams another example of it.
— David ?? (@chattingwham) January 26, 2022
Preston are currently 13th in the Championship, and if possible they would almost certainly look to make Van den Berg’s stay in Lancashire permanent, with the youngster finding a home at Deepdale.
“Everyone worked very hard; I am happy to be playing centre-back,” he reflected after the win over West Brom.
“I keep developing myself and that’s why I came here – for me, playing every game, 90 minutes, tough opponents, I feel like I keep getting better and that’s what I’m here for.”
But there remains a chance he is in line for a promotion to the Liverpool senior ranks, particularly if Nat Phillips is to depart, allowing Van den Berg to challenge the likes of Ibrahima Konate and Joe Gomez.