Liverpool could raid Southampton again to unearth Virgil van Dijk’s successor

The Reds welcome the south-coast side to Anfield today and Jurgen Klopp could keep a close eye on a visiting defender.

It became a running joke that Southampton had become a feeder team for Liverpool.

Given the number of times the Reds raided the south coast, there was no wonder such quips were made.

How have they fared?

In a three-and-a-half year period, seven players made the switch.

The tactic didn't exactly start successfully. Rickie Lambert was the first to move from St Mary's to Anfield in the summer of 2014. The less said about his time at his boyhood club, the better.

In the same transfer window, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren would both follow in Lambert's footsteps. They'd go on to help Liverpool claim the Champions League and Premier League before leaving in 2020 for Brighton and Zenit respectively.

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Adam Lallana lifts the Premier League trophy. Picture: PAUL ELLIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Nathan Clyne was next through the door in July 2015. The right-back made a decent start on Merseyside but injuries took their toll.

The emergence of Trent Alexander-Arnold also put paid to any hopes of breaking back into the team.

However, Liverpool's last two swoops from Southampton have proven shrewd.

Sadio Mane cost £34 million in June 2016. That has proven a bargain, with the Senegal international establishing himself as one of the best forwards in the world.

And the last player to make the move undoubtedly helped take Liverpool to the next level. Virgil van Dijk cost a club-record fee of £75 million in January 2018 but it's been worth every penny. Previous errors in the rearguard were swiftly stamped out because of the quality and presence he provides.

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Who could be next?

It's approaching four years since Liverpool plundered Ralph Hassenhutl's side. With Southampton visiting Anfield today, it wouldn't be a surprise if there is another south-coast maraud down the line. But who at St Mary's could it be?

Most Kopites would pick James Ward-Prowse if they were allowed to select any member of the Southampton squad.

However, the midfielder recently signed a new long-term contract and wouldn't be cheap.

Aged 27, he wouldn't have much of a sell-on value, either. Fenway Sports Group are usually reluctant to sign players in their peak years.

Tino Livramento has made a scintillating impression since ditching Chelsea for the Saints. But with Trent Alexander-Arnold arguably the world's best right-back, a move is unfathomable.

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Southampton right-back Tino Livramento. Picture: Julian Finney/Getty Images

What about a potential successor to van Dijk, then? It worked the last time, after all.

Mohammed Salisu has admitted that the Dutchman is his idol and wants to be like him.

Well, what better way than following in van Dijk's footsteps and moving to Anfield in the future.

Salisu joined Southampton from Real Valladolid in the summer of 2020 but had a frustrating first season. It wasn't until February he made his debut and played only 12 times in 2020-21.

However, the 22-year-old was signed as a project - and has firmly thrust his way into Hasenhüttl's plans this term.

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Salisu has already made 14 appearances in all competitions, scoring one goal, and helped keep five clean sheets.

That’s a stat

According to WhoScored's player ratings, the Ghanaian is Southampton's leading performer this season. He has an average match rating of 7.10.

Salisu has plenty of time on his side to continue his development on the south coast.

The boffins at Wyscout have also rated Salisu's performances this season. He's ranked the 10th-best central defender this season in the Premier League. Van Dijk comes in eighth and centre-half partner Joel Matip is in between.

Salisu has averaged 5.24 aerial duels per 90 minutes, similar to van Dijk (5.16) and Matip (5.34) and come out on top of 68.24% of all of his duels - more than the duo.

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Mohammed Salisu battles Romelu Lukaku during Southampton’s 3-1 loss to leaders Chelsea. Picture: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Liverpool aren't currently searching for another centre-back after signing Ibrahima Konate for £36 million in the summer.

Klopp is well stocked with Joe Gomez and Nat Phillips also options.

But clubs are always planning for the future and earmarking targets. Stand still and you fall behind.

Matip's 30 and his current contract expires in 2024. Come the end of his deal, he might be allowed to depart.

Van Dijk's the same age as Matip. While he committed his long-term future in August until 2025, it doesn't mean he's going to be around forever.

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Salisu's still got plenty to learn but he's got the potential to continue progressing into a top talent.

He could well be an option for Liverpool down the line.