Why Virgil van Dijk Will Be A Great Signing For Barcelona
The Virgil van Dijk transfer saga doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. The 26-year old Southampton defender is one of the most sought-after players in the Premier League and has been attracting interest from all the top clubs, with Liverpool being the most interested.
However, it seemed that he would stay put at the St. Mary’s after the Saints reported Jurgen Klopp’s side to the Premier League for illegal tapping up of the player, following which the Reds were forced into issuing a public apology and had to withdraw their interest.
But, the latest developments in the saga have opened up a new can of worms altogether. Saints’ new boss Mauricio Pellegrino revealed last week that Van Dijk had asked to leave the club in the summer, and as a result, he has been ordered to train away from the first-team by the manager. This led to speculations that Liverpool will end up signing the Dutchman. However, as per reports from Spanish outlet Don Balon, Barcelona too have decided to throw their hat in the ring for his transfer.
The Catalans have had a fairly quiet start to the summer, following the arrival of Ernesto Valverde as the new manager, after Luis Enrique resigned at the end of the last season. Barca have brought back academy product Gerard Deulofeu from Everton and have signed right-back Nelson Semedo from SL Benfica.
While a centre-back may not be the highest on their priority list, when an opportunity of signing a top-class defender like Virgil van Dijk presents itself, they would not want to let it go. The Netherlands international has been one of the most impressive defenders in the Premier League since his arrival two seasons back from Scottish champions Celtic.
A towering presence at 6ft 4in, Van Dijk is a great presence to have while defending set-piece situations – something that Barcelona have lacked in recent years. He can make himself a nuisance in the opposition box as well. Tactically, one of the most astute defenders with the natural instincts to read the danger and stop them, the 26-year old possesses a decent turn of pace as well and has the ball-playing abilities that is very much key to the way the Catalans play.
Valverde too likes his defenders to be able to play with the ball at their feet – something which made Aymeric Laporte a hit at Athletic Bilbao. Van Dijk will offer all those qualities. A good dribbler, with a very good range of distribution, the former Celtic man has the ability to start attacks from deep in his own half, which could have a brilliant effect, with the likes of Neymar and Lionel Messi on the flanks.
Barcelona have enough depth in the centre-half department, with the likes of Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti and Javier Mascherano in the ranks. Young defender Marlon also impressed in the handful of appearances he made last season. But it should also be taken into note that Mascherano is 33 years old now and did not look like his usual solid-self last season. Having sold Jeremy Mathieu in the summer, space does open up in the ranks for a new centre-half to come in.
Van Dijk has shown that he has all the abilities to grow into a top-class centre-half and at 26, he is just entering his peak years. He will have to fight for a place in the starting XI at the Camp Nou, but judging by the way he has performed over the last two years, it wouldn’t be long before he displaces Umtiti from the playing XI.
Barcelona are in need of making a big statement ahead of the next season, having lost ground on Real Madrid over the last year. A quarter-final exit in the Champions League and a second-place finish in the La Liga would have many clubs over the moon, but the Blaugrana will definitely be not happy with the outcome from last season. Signing a quality defender like Van Dijk would go quite a way in making a real statement of intent for the club.