Man Utd have little answers to brutal Liverpool truth when it comes to £75m transfer

Van Dijk cost Liverpool £75 million in 2018 but the top-10 highest fees paid by Premier League clubs show is true value.

“Van Dijk has to lead Liverpool to trophies and be Liverpool’s main and number one centre-back for a decade.”

That’s what Jamie Carragher said before the signing of Virgil van Dijk from Southampton in January 2018 and he stressed that, for the money, he was signed to be a transformative figure.

Fast forward five years and that is exactly what he has been. Liverpool signed van Dijk for a fee of £75 million - a world record for a defender at the time. Jurgen Klopp wasn’t messing around. He splashed the cash in a bid to remedy the Reds’ defensive frailties.

In the first half of the 2017-18 season, Liverpool were scintillating on the attack. Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino had swiftly forged a deadly triumvirate, with Philippe Coutinho waving his wand behind. Yet Klopp’s side had issues at the back. They were brittle and required a leader.

Indeed, Coutinho’s sale to Barcelona for a whopping £142 million gave Klopp the war chest to recruit van Dijk. And as impressive as he’d been for Southampton, furrowed brows were still pulled at the hefty fee paid for a centre-back who was plying his trade at Dutch side Groningen less than five years earlier.

It was a calculated gamble and there was no indication that he would go on to achieve success at Anfield. But scoring the winner in the Merseyside derby against Everton in the FA Cup fifth was certainly a perfect introduction and he never looked back.

The Netherlands international has won every trophy possible with Liverpool. Had the Reds not prised him from St Mary’s, there’s a good chance that a sixth Champions League would not adorn the Anfield trophy cabinet, nor a 30-year wait for a league title ended.

Van Dijk has been an integral part of the success of the Klopp era. And he’s the prime example of how Liverpool conducted their business with pinpoint accuracy that led to the trophy-laden years.

Given the sizeable fee the Reds paid, it’s scarcely surprising that van Dijk remains the eighth-highest Premier League deal of all time. But impressively, there’s a strong case that he is the undisputed best big-money move out of them all. In truth, it’s not even remotely close.

Let’s compare his move to the other names on the list. Romelu Lukaku’s return to Chelsea in the summer of 2021 cost £97.5 million million. He was shipped off to Inter Milan on loan after one campaign, with his Stamford Bridge future very much in doubt come this summer.

Manchester United paid £80 million for Harry Maguire, who now finds himself on the periphery at Old Trafford. Indeed, United have been accused of profligacy, with Paul Pogba costing £89m when he came back from Juventus in 2016. He was supposed to lead the Red Devils back to silverware. Yet he won just the Europea League and barely convinced anyone - Roy Keane especially - before leaving for free to return the Old Lady in the summer.

Jadon Sancho (£73m) has made a lacklustre start since his switch from Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2022. To their credit, Antony (£86m) has made a decent-enough start after arriving from Ajax in August.

Jack Grealish broke the British record transfer fee when Manchester City parted with £100 million for his services from Aston Villa in August 2021. He helped City win the Premier League title in his maiden campaign at the Etihad Stadium but his productivity in the final third continues to be scrutinised.

Darwin Nunez could cost Liverpool more than van Dijk in the long run after an initial £64 million was paid to Benfica in June. The striker’s raw attributes have been stark. He has pace and power in abundance and has already plundered 10 goals. But his composure in front of goal has been found wanting.

Meanwhile, Wesley Fofana £75m is part of a Chelsea side very much in transition under Graham Potter.

Of course, some players on the list could develop able to be sold for relatively high fees in the future - but some have watched their value jettison. United would have to cut their losses on Maguire if he was to be sold, while Lukaku’s stock continues to drop during his stuttering loan spell at Inter Milan.

To be frank, there are plenty of examples of big-money signings failing to be justified. Therefore, Van Dijk’s incredible effect on Liverpool being beyond what anyone believed would happen when he signed all those years ago is a rare success. He has gone on to make 205 appearances under Klopp with a hugely impressive win ratio of 70% alongside a full trophy cabinet to boot.

Van Dijk was said to be courted by Manchester City, Chelsea and Barcelona at the time, among many others, who didn’t believe he was worth the aforementioned fee that was eventually agreed - but Liverpool’s former sporting director Michael Edwards helped Klopp and Fenway Sports Group to take an estimated punt that the authoritative, technically and physically strong Dutch defender would be the bedrock behind another period of success.

As transfer fees continue to inflate, van Dijk will likely find himself knocked off the top-10 list in the coming years. But as things stand, he’s the anomaly.