Liverpool are set to win the race to sign Virgil van Dijk after being informed by the Southampton defender that Anfield is his preferred destination.
Jürgen Klopp had made the Dutch international a transfer priority having guided Liverpool into the Champions League play-offs but faced competition from the champions, Chelsea, and Manchester City for the 25-year-old’s signature. However, in what represents a major statement of intent from Liverpool and a big breakthrough for Klopp, the central defender has told his suitors and Southampton that he favours a move to Merseyside.
Liverpool have yet to agree a fee for Van Dijk but are willing to meet an asking price that may reach £60m for their main transfer target. They are also prepared to match City’s offer of a contract worth around £200,000-a-week for the former Celtic and Groningen defender, who will become Liverpool’s record signing and highest paid player once the deal is complete.
The Anfield club have refused to comment on Van Dijk’s preference but will understandably regard his arrival as a significant development given the interest from Chelsea and Pep Guardiola’s club. Talks are set to take place in the coming days with the champions and City unlikely to rival Liverpool’s offer, and thus spark an auction that would drive up the fee, having been made aware of the defender’s wishes.
Chelsea will be extremely disappointed to lose out on Van Dijk, whom they had targeted as the left-sided centre-half of choice in their back three.
Van Dijk, who was also wanted by Everton and his former Southampton manager Ronald Koeman, has excelled in the Premier League since arriving from Celtic for £13m in 2015. He missed the second half of last season with an ankle ligament injury but Klopp believes his defensive authority and quality in possession will improve Liverpool’s rearguard.
The Liverpool manager is believed to be a factor in the Dutch international’s decision with qualification for the Champions League – providing the play-off in August is successfully navigated – also crucial in swaying the defender towards Merseyside.
Klopp believes Liverpool can challenge for next season’s Premier League title with a few important additions. He told the club’s website on Monday: “I’m really optimistic for our future, not because I’m crazy but only because I know what we have, I know what we will get, I know what we can get, and I know that we really have a super bunch of people – knowledge, character – not just the players, all around.”
Liverpool are also expected to sign the former Chelsea winger Mohamed Salah but have yet to agree a fee with Roma, the Egyptian’s club, who are seeking around £35m. Anfield officials held talks with their counterparts over Salah last week but were unable to finalise terms.
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