Football Features

Virgil van Dijk gives worrying Liverpool update following Klopp announcement

By CJ Smith

Published: 17:02, 29 January 2024

Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk has given a worrying update on his future in the wake of Jurgen Klopp’s announcement he will step down as manager at the end of the season. 

The football world was rocked earlier this week as Klopp revealed this will be his last season in charge, bringing the curtain down on an almost-nine-year spell in charge that has delivered Premier League and Champions League titles among a host of other major honours. This season alone, the Reds remain in the hunt for four trophies.

But with the imminent departure of Klopp and his backroom staff, question marks have quickly followed regarding a number of Liverpool’s key players.

Kwiff betting offer: Bet £10 Get £30

Eligible readers* interested in Kwiff's new customer betting offer can follow these simple steps:

  1. Follow THIS LINK or click the image below to create your account.
  2. Place a qualifying bet (min odds 1.50, min stake £10)
  3. Get a £30 'surprise bet'

Qualifying real money bet of £10. Min odds greater than or equal to 1.5 required. E/W bets excluded. Offer awarded immediately but could be issued the next working day in exceptional circumstances such as technical fault. Additional T&Cs apply. Please gamble responsibly.

Mohamed Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Van Dijk, for example, are entering into the final 18 months of their contracts. The latter was questioned by journalists on Monday regarding whether or not he’ll stay beyond Klopp’s tenure, and the Dutch centre-back was rather non-commital in his response.

“That’s a big question. I don’t know,” Van Dijk responded when asked whether or not he’ll be part of the next era at Anfield. He continued: “The club will have a big job on their hands [after Klopp], that is well known.

“To replace not only the manager but the whole staff and there are so many things that will change. I’m very curious which direction that will go in but when that will be announced we will see our situation.

“It will be the end of Jurgen Klopp’s era – I am still part of it that’s why I don’t like to talk about it – and that is my main focus.

“Hopefully we will have the success we all dream of and by then probably there will be more clarification about what the club wants for the future and then we will see.”

Van Dijk vs the world

You don’t need us to tell you just how big of a loss Van Dijk would be to Liverpool. Indeed, the 32-year-old has been right at the forefront of the ‘world’s greatest centre-back’ debate ever since joining the Reds in January 2018, more often than not being the top pick for most.

Of course, it’s always good to test those arguments. So, using the Squawka Comparison Matrix, we picked 13 stats to use for the head-to-head battle to see which defender would come out on top. Van Dijk swept aside William Saliba, Rúben Dias, teammate Ibrahima Konate, Kim Min-jae and more.

Surprisingly, 40-year-old Pepe came close while fellow veteran Thiago Silva also put up a good fight. But VVD still reigned supreme.

That was until he met Jan Paul van Hecke. Van Dijk’s compatriot outperformed him at a 6-5 ratio — the other two metrics coming out level — with Van Hecke scoring better on Long Pass Accuracy %, Forward Passes Made, Tackles Made, Fouls Conceded, Ground Duels Won and Ground Duel Success %.

However, we should note that when using the even more detailed Squawka Score, Van Dijk regains top spot among his Premier League peers. Although, based on all players to play at least 900 minutes this season, Van Hecke’s 73% score was only bettered by Cristian Romero (74%) and Van Dijk (79%). Ibrahima Konaté (also 73%) and Gabriel (70%) complete the top five.

Who could replace Van Dijk at Liverpool?

Realistic: Jarell Quansah or Leny Yoro

Given his increasing importance to the team, we might well see Konate step up as the lead centre-back for Liverpool in years to come. Whether that is the case or not, they’re going to need another elite option.

Perhaps that could come from within, as Jarell Quansah has impressed during admittedly limited minutes for the club so far. That said, the 21-year-old has looked the part in each of his six Premier League performances so far this term, as well as acquitting himself brilliantly against tough opposition in the cups.

Replacing a £75m defender with one already at the club truly would be the dream for Liverpool.

A more expensive option would be the latest youngster off the Lille production line, Leny Yoro.

Capped extensively by France across various youth levels, Yoro is still just 18 years old but is already being linked with the likes of Man Utd, Real Madrid and, predictably, PSG, as well as Liverpool.

Yoro needs work when it comes to his ball-playing, though it must be said that Lille don’t dominate possession in the same way Liverpool do. What’s not up for question is his defensive ability, which has massively contributed to Lille conceding just 14 Ligue 1 goals so far this season; only Nice (11) have a better record.

Wonderkid: Jorrel Hato

Want to replace one of the greatest Dutch defenders of all time with someone who could go on to become one of the greatest Dutch defenders of all time?

This one might not be an option that would bear fruit straight away, given he’s played less than 50 senior games for Ajax. However, Jorrel Hato is turning heads around Europe with his excellent performances this season.

He looks every inch a Van Dijk replacement in terms of his ball-playing ability, while he’s certainly not afraid of getting stuck in. Even at 17, though, Hato would already cost a pretty penny.

Wildcard: Jhon Lucumí

If Liverpool are looking for someone more in their ‘prime’, won’t cost the eye-watering sums Van Dijk himself did, but still holds a pretty good statistical comparison to the Dutchman, Jhon Lucumí might be the way to go.

After excelling in Belgium with Genk, the Colombian has established himself as one of the best under-the-radar centre-backs in Serie A with Bologna, thanks to his bullish tackling and ability to distribute the ball — long and short — from deep.

Squawka Suggests: Jan Paul van Hecke

He beat Van Dijk in the Comparison Matrix showdown, so it’d be wrong of us not to suggest Jan Paul van Hecke. It took a couple of loans and patience, but Van Hecke is finally breaking through at Brighton and has very much become the latest piece in Roberto De Zerbi’s revolution.

The 23-year-old Dutchman — who is making all the right noises if he wants to join Van Dijk on the senior national team — has proven himself more than a match for the man we think he could replace in a number of key areas; not least ball-playing, aerial ability and fearless defending.

Let’s see how this one plays out…