As exclusively revealed by Telegraph Sport, a fee was agreed on Wednesday for Van Dijk that shatters Liverpool’s previous club record transfer and is also easily the biggest in football history for a defender.
The two clubs were in secret negotiations over Christmas following the acrimonious breakdown of a potential deal last summer and Van Dijk completed a medical on Friday, agreeing personal terms on a contract worth £180,000-a-week.
Liverpool and Southampton brought forward their announcement of what is a massive coup for manager Jurgen Klopp after news of the deal was broken by Telegraph Sport. A photograph of Van Dijk posing with a replica Liverpool kit in front of his Christmas tree was then posted on the Liverpool website alongside confirmation he will wear the number four shirt.
With Liverpool unable to register Van Dijk in time for the Premier League match against Burnley next Monday, his debut could be the Merseyside derby against Everton in the FA Cup third round.
Manchester City and Chelsea were both also extremely interested in Van Dijk and have made inquiries at different stages of the past six months but the 26-year-old’s preference was always Liverpool after being personally attracted by the chance to work under Klopp.
“Delighted and honoured to have agreed to become a Liverpool player,” said Van Dijk. “Today is a proud day for me and my family as I join one of the biggest clubs in world football. I can’t wait to pull on the famous red shirt for the first time in front of the Kop and will give everything I have to try and help this great club achieve something special.”
Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher hailed the signing, saying that Van Dijk is “better in the air than me, quicker than me and more composed”.
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Van Dijk’s arrival follows major summer deals by Liverpool for Mo Salah and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and agreement to pay the £48m release clause for RB Leipzig midfielder Naby Keita. Barcelona, though, are also now expected to renew their interest in Philippe Coutinho after three bids were rejected last summer, peaking at £118.7 million. Liverpool regard the two situations as unconnected and had wanted Van Dijk, who was Klopp’s first-choice transfer target, well before Barcelona moved for Coutinho.
Liverpool did not ultimately make a formal offer to Southampton last summer but were ready to pay around £60m after it became clear in June that Van Dijk wanted to join them. Southampton were furious at the apparent leak of information and their complaint to the Premier League over a suspected illegal approach prompted an apology from Liverpool and agreement not to pursue the deal.
Liverpool have since handled an embarrassing situation adeptly by not antagonising Southampton with any bid later in the summer and then discreetly opening negotiations ahead of the January window.
Goals conceded by top six this season
Premier League leaders Manchester City were expected to make an initial £60 million bid and Chelsea also had an offer turned down last summer but the situation moved to a rapid conclusion over the past 48 hours.
Southampton’s decision to finally sell Van Dijk was influenced by their own increasingly worrying predicament. Van Dijk missed the start of the season after handing in a transfer request amid a very public fall-out with Southampton over their attempt to formally discipline him.
Van Dijk was adamant that he had not missed training but the club’s new manager, Mauricio Pellegrino, felt that he was not fully focussed and he did not play for the first-team until the middle of September. His form was then mixed and he was again dropped from recent Premier League games against Chelsea, Huddersfield Town and Tottenham Hotspur.
Although Van Dijk is adamant that he remained fully professional, there was a strong feeling at Southampton that his presence was affecting team spirit and harming their season. Liverpool have agreed to pay £70m of the fee up front, with Celtic also benefitting from a 10 per cent sell on clause on a deal that then rises to £75m.
Goals conceded from set pieces
The structure and timing of the transfer reflects Southampton’s desire to now make major signings of their own and they are committed to reinvesting the entire fee. They hope to add an attacking player next week and are also lining up other deals.
Southampton have won one of their last 11 games and are conscious that Pellegrino has had the Van Dijk situation hanging over him ever since he replaced Claude Puel last summer.
The club hope that selling Van Dijk will help Pellegrino and the squad make a fresh start but there are clear concerns at their position now just two points above the relegation zone ahead of their match against Manchester United on Saturday.
The £75m Van Dijk fee is also level with Romelu Lukaku as the second most expensive transfer in Premier League history, behind only Manchester United’s £90m purchase of Paul Pogba.