Virgil van Dijk: Revisiting the 8 alternatives Liverpool chased in 2017
Since arriving from Southampton in January 2018, Virgil van Dijk has become a Liverpool legend and one of the best defenders of his generation – but he wasn’t the only centre-back linked with a move to Anfield at the time.
Liverpool were leaking goals throughout 2017, leading Jurgen Klopp to pay £70million for Van Dijk in an emergency measure to plug his leaky defence.
It was a decision that instantly paid off; Liverpool reached the Champions League final four months after Van Dijk’s arrival and would win both the Premier League and Champions League within two seasons afterwards.
We’ve taken a look back at Liverpool in the year before Van Dijk’s arrival and have picked out eight players they targeted before getting a deal over the line for the Netherlands international.
Keane was thought to prefer a return to Old Trafford with Manchester United, but he would’ve added some much-needed aerial strength to Liverpool’s back four and it was no surprise to see him linked with the club after helping Burnley avoid relegation.
Instead, the England centre-back moved to Everton for £25million and has made 200 appearances for the Toffees – and has scored the odd Goal of the Season contender to boot…
🔵⚪️ Top strike by Everton’s Michael Keane last night! pic.twitter.com/M7qPgRNVTe
— EuroFoot (@eurofootcom) April 4, 2023
Liverpool were strongly linked with Gibson, valued at £25million after starring for Middlesbrough in 2016-17 despite their relegation.
Then only 24 years old and a natural leader, Gibson was thought to have a bright future in the game but a move to Burnley in 2018 didn’t work out for either party.
The centre-back is now at Norwich, having joined the club in the summer of 2021, but only made two appearances for the club during last season’s underwhelming 13th place finish in the Championship.
Well, this is interesting.
Liverpool had already raided relegated Hull for Andy Robertson in the summer of 2017, before being linked with a move for Maguire.
The centre-back moved to Leicester instead and his performances at the 2018 World Cup raised his profile hugely. Manchester United paid £80million for his services a year later – a world-record fee for a defender.
His toils at United are well-documented, but the turmoil at Old Trafford hasn’t been the most conducive for peak performance. Still, Liverpool haven’t endured any sleepless nights for missing out on Maguire.
As the 2016-17 season drew to a close, with Liverpool having secured a return to the Champions League, Klopp began scouting Europe for an upgrade on his existing centre-back options.
Porto and Brazil defender Felipe was rumoured to be on that shortlist. He’d go on to be named in the Portuguese Team of the Year in 2018 before spending four successful years at Atletico Madrid.
Felipe joined Nottingham Forest in January 2023 and has impressed with his combative and assured performances in the club’s successful fight against relegation. This could’ve been a good signing for Liverpool.
Stefan de Vrij
Versatile, committed and consistent, De Vrij is a manager’s dream and it’s no surprise that Liverpool were linked with his signature back in 2017.
Sky Italia claimed that Liverpool had a £17million bid rejected for the Netherlands international. De Vrij only had one year left on his current deal, but Lazio held out for £30million.
De Vrij would move to Internazionale the following summer and has made over 200 appearances for the Italian giants in the years since.
Liverpool’s defence continued to leak goals like an elite sieve as the 2017-18 campaign got underway; they shipped three at Watford in the season opener, five at Manchester City and four against a rampant Spurs.
With Southampton playing hardball over Van Dijk, reports in Germany claimed that Klopp had turned his attention to the teenage Upamecano.
Both United and Arsenal were understood to have expressed a strong interest in the future France international, but Leipzig held firm and rebutted all interest in their young starlet.
Upamecano would move to Bayern Munich in the summer of 2021 and has already won two Bundesliga titles.
On the other hand, many will remember him getting ragdolled by Erling Haaland throughout his career, so it’s swings and roundabouts really.
Here’s the clip of Erling Haaland being really unkind to Dayot Upamecano last night. Just walked all over the poor lad.pic.twitter.com/0zbzjjSRDR
— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) May 14, 2021
Liverpool joined both Manchester clubs and Arsenal in registering their interest in Soyuncu at the end of 2017.
Aged just 21, Soyuncu was a regular at Bundesliga upstarts Freiburg and had already established himself in the Turkey side. He’d end up moving to England in 2018 in an £18million move to Leicester and briefly became one of the top defenders in the Premier League.
But Soyuncu was unable to save the club from relegation in 2023 and is widely expected to join Atletico Madrid this summer.
Powered by the contact book of Jorge Mendes, Wolves were motoring through the Championship when Saiss caught Liverpool’s eye.
The Morocco international was clearly far too good for England’s second tier, but would end up staying at Molineux until the summer of 2022 before switching to Besiktas.
By Michael Lee
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