SOUVENIR PROGRAMME

2RWF3PX Mainz's Sepp van den Berg during a German Bundesliga soccer match between FSV Mainz 05 and VfB Stuttgart in Mainz, Germany, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

8 recoveries, 8 clearances, 1 goal – LFC defender’s monster display vs. Dortmund

Liverpool defender Sepp van den Berg closed the first half of his loan spell at Mainz with an outstanding display against Dortmund, including the equaliser.

Van den Berg, the 22-year-old Dutch centre-back, is one of few loanees to be truly catching the eye away from Liverpool so far this season.

Having spent last term with Schalke in the Bundesliga, with injury limiting his influence as the club were relegated to the second tier, he opted to stay in Germany this time out.

Joining Jurgen Klopp‘s former club Mainz, Van den Berg has been a first-choice starter throughout a campaign that saw a change of manager in November.

He has missed only one Bundesliga game, that being due to suspension, starting 13 of the remaining 15 and coming off the bench twice.

The £4.4 million signing has largely done so in a back three, and often as the left-sided centre-back, including in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Dortmund.

In the final game before the Bundesliga’s winter break, Van den Berg netted the equalising goal to mark his 22nd birthday in style.

It came in a stellar display from the youngster as he made the third-most defensive actions of any Mainz player (nine), the joint-most recoveries (eight) and a match-high of clearances (eight), per FotMob.

According to FBref, Van den Berg won four of his five aerial duels, for a win rate (80%) higher than any other Mainz player to contest more than one.

Midfielder Lee Jae-sung (six) was the only player to complete more passes into the final third than the defender (three).

No defender with 500 minutes played across Europe’s top five leagues – the Premier League, the Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and the Eredivisie – has won more aerial duels on average per 90 minutes than Van den Berg (5.8).

Bochum’s Ivan Ordets (5.4) and Keven Schlotterbeck (5.2) make up the rest of the top three, per WhoScored, with Virgil van Dijk (5.0) and Ibrahima Konate (4.2) next.

That three Liverpool players are in the top five not only shows the emphasis placed on aerial dominance when signing centre-backs, but it also suggests there will be ongoing interest in Van den Berg from those on Merseyside.

Despite the emergence of Jarell Quansah as a genuine first-team option this season, there is an expectation that the club will pursue another centre-back next summer.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, July 31, 2022: Liverpool's Sepp van den Berg during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and RC Strasbourg Alsace at Anfield. Strasbourg won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Joel Matip has suffered a season-ending ACL injury and there is no guarantee his contract will be extended, meaning Klopp would be left with Van Dijk, Konate, Quansah and Joe Gomez.

If another defender is targeted, there could be consideration for the return of Van den Berg if he maintains his impressive form at Mainz.

Mainz did, however, negotiate an option to buy into their loan agreement.