When Virgil van Dijk arrived at Liverpool in a club-record £75million deal back in January of 2018, many scoffed at the sheer magnitude of the transfer fee. Question marks were raised over whether the Dutchman could justify his hefty price tag while Jamie Carragher laid down a challenge to the former Southampton centre-back. Over four years on, and to say he has exceeded those expectations would be an almighty understatement.
Ahead of that January window, the Reds agreed the enormous fee to capture Van Dijk’s services from Southampton, six months after the Saints threatened to take legal action against the men from Merseyside over their persistent pursuit of the centre-back. The Dutchman reportedly snubbed interest from Manchester City in favour of a move to Anfield, and while Liverpool legend Carragher backed his former side’s decision to splash the cash on one of the game’s emerging defenders, he issued a challenge to the Reds’ new signing.
“I think there is a dearth of real world class centre-backs throughout world football, hence why so many clubs wanted him and why the transfer fee so high now,” Carragher told Sky Sports back in December 2017. “I think people will look at the transfer fee – it’s normally strikers going for that sort of transfer figure – but as with any transfer fee, if he performs well and does his job, what he has been brought in for, it will be worth it.
“I think the one player I remember as a centre-back with a transfer fee so huge at the time was probably 15 years ago when Rio Ferdinand went to Manchester United for just over £32m. But he repaid that. He was Manchester United’s top centre-back, won trophies and was there for 10 years.
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“That’s what Van Dijk has to do – take Liverpool to trophies and be Liverpool’s main number one centre-back for the next decade or so. You would think [he will bring] size, presence and pace. People talk about leadership, I think that remains to be seen. I think looking at Van Dijk these last few months, he has go to step up.”
Without question, Van Dijk has risen to the challenge. Since Carragher’s claims, Liverpool’s No.4 has been a rock at the back in a Jurgen Klopp team which has gone on to compete for trophies on numerous front.
In the years since, the Netherlands international has helped the Reds lift the Champions League, end a 30-year wait for a top-flight league title and claim European Super Cup and Club World Cup honours. This season alone has seen him add a League Cup and FA Cup to his ever-increasing list of accolades. A second Champions League crown could be just over a week away as well.
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