By Lewis Rooke – @LV_Rooke
It’s been a funny old start to the season.
Liverpool’s strengths seem to have inadvertently flipped on the top of their head, with the Reds notoriously lethal attack blunted and the defence very much excelling. Whilst the defensive side of Klopp’s game has improved immeasurably, there is no reason to suggest it can’t get any better.
Ronald Koeman’s Netherlands side, captained by none other than our very own Virgil van Dijk, beat Germany 3-0 in the seemingly pointless UEFA Nations League – however one thing was abundantly clear – the growing partnership between Virgil van Dijk and his 19-year-old countryman Matthijs de Ligt.
Despite his tender age, de Ligt is no unknown prodigy on the football scene. The Dutch international has already racked up one shy of 50 Eredivisie appearances for European giants Ajax as well as 10 caps for the Netherlands national side.
Alongside van Dijk, de Ligt has to compete with with more seasoned centre-backs Stefan De Vrij of Inter Milan, Nathan Ake and Daley Blind for a starting berth. With all of these players possessing some decent international reputation, it’s no fluke that de Ligt has found himself starting ahead of such strong competition.
Possessing wonderful passing skills and composure on the ball as well as defensive nous beyond his years, de Ligt would be tailor-made to slot in right alongside Virgil van Dijk in the Liverpool backline. Not only this, at just 19-years-old he fits the FSG ethos of buying young and maintaining sell-on value.
Coveted by Barcelona and Manchester City, any kind of interest from Liverpool would inevitably ignite a bidding war- which could rise to record-breaking levels. But would it be worth it?
As previously mentioned, Liverpool currently have no issues surrounding the defence – with Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren performing admirably alongside van Dijk. On the account of the season so far, the deal would not make sense at this current moment.
But a question lingers, why should a team like Liverpool rest on their laurels when top talent is available on the market? Being so young, de Ligt would be the obvious heir to van Dijk’s orchestrating role at the heart of the defence as well as possessing the skills to cut it in the first team presently.
As good as van Dijk is, he’ll be 28 at the end of the season and for any player to match his unrivalled, glossy performances they’ll have to be integrated into Klopp’s team for an extended period of time, learning from the man himself.
Make no mistake, Joe Gomez has been absolutely exemplary so far this season. Strength in depth, however, doesn’t come from buying quantity, it comes from replacing your best players with even better ones – thus raising the level of performance in the squad, giving Liverpool the optimum opportunity for trophies and battling on several fronts.
Matthijs de Ligt would be the prime example of this, and while his transfer would inevitably be costly, it would be yet another major statement of intent for Jurgen Klopp’s side, who has not been shy with relegating top talent to the bench when the situation demands it.
To sum up, the signing of de Ligt would almost secure the future of Liverpool’s backline. Alongside van Dijk and Joe Gomez, the young Dutchman would provide the core on which the Reds could build for years and years to come, flanked by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.
The current availability of de Ligt indicates one thing, that as good as we currently are defensively, there is still a higher ceiling that we can reach.