Liverpool would have gone for Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly had they failed to sign Van Dijk
Just before the year turned from 2017 to 2018 and the January transfer window began, reports broke out, soon to be confirmed, that Liverpool had finally managed to sign Virgil van Dijk from Southampton for £75 million – at the time a world-record fee for a defender. It was certainly one of the signings that would shape the fortunes of the club to present day.
The story of how the Reds suffered a setback in their pursuit of the Dutchman the previous summer, how they were forced to publicly withdraw their interest, is widely known. Apart from the £75 million, it took all the diplomatic skill that Michael Edwards and Mike Gordon possess to get the deal over the line after that. Naturally, under those circumstances, the club simply had to have alternative moves lined up, just in case.
As reported by Neil Jones, formerly of Liverpool Echo and now working for Goal.com, two lists (A and B) were made. The B-list included young, talented centre-backs which could be moulded into top-class defenders in the years to come. The names of Manuel Akanji, Eder Militao and Jamaal Lascelles were there. The A-list was reserved for complete players who would be able to step in and make a difference straight away, such as Jerome Boateng, whom Jurgen Klopp apparently admired since his days in Germany. Aymeric Laporte, now at Manchester City of course, was also considered.
But Boateng was far from a preferred choice, having a rather colourful injury record. Jones finds it necessary to stress here that Van Dijk was the undisputed first-choice target, but had the chase proven fruitless, the club would have then moved on to the next candidate – Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly.
Even after the signing of Van Dijk, there were still some among us who had hoped for a partnership between the two, but given the amount of money Liverpool had just spent on the current Netherlands captain and the amount of money Napoli chief Aurelio de Laureniis has been demanding for the Senegalese recently, it was never going to happen.
Be it all as it may, Liverpool signed Van Dijk and never looked back, and instead of playing with them, Koulibaly will have to think about stopping Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah as Napoli welcome Liverpool to the Sao Paolo stadium in Naples on Tuesday, in the opening round of this season’s Champions League.