Two years into his stint as Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp
-- a prolific striker as a player for Mainz -- has hit the target more often than not with selections and tactics.
an aborted attempt to acquire Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk
has tarnished his reputation, and reminded supporters of the club’s past transgressions in the player market.
On Wednesday, Liverpool publicly withdrew its interest in Van Dijk a day after Southampton lodged a complaint with the Premier League and two days after the defender indicated his preferred
destinations were Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal. Members of Liverpool’s ownership, Fenway Sports Group, discussed the matter and helped draft a statement by which the club, embarrassingly
and perhaps damningly, pulled out of a negotiation it had not formally initiated.
“Liverpool Football Club would like to put on record our regret over recent media speculation
regarding Southampton Football Club and player transfers between the two clubs,” the statement read. “We apologise to the owner, board of directors and fans of Southampton for any
misunderstanding regarding Virgil van Dijk. We respect Southampton’s position and can confirm we have ended any interest in the player.”
The Premier League has contacted
both teams to obtain their version of events. Reportedly, Southampton has evidence that Klopp met with Van Dijk in Blackpool and sent texts to the player, both clear cases of “tapping up,”
a term used to describe unauthorized contact between a player under contract and another club. Van Dijk’s contract with Southampton runs for five more years and a deal for him has been valued in
the press at 60 million pounds ($75 million).
The alleged illegal contact predates the arrival of Peter Moore
-- the former EA Sports president with more than 30 years of
experience working in American soccer market -- as Liverpool’s new chief executive but he and the club’s FSG representatives, including John Henry
and chairman Tom Werner
could be answering a lot of questions in the next few weeks if the Premier League decides to investigate the matter. The club’s track recent track record is not good.
ago, Liverpool issued a public apology to Fulham, which had reported to the Premier League an illegal advance to U.S. international Clint Dempsey
. So clumsily had Liverpool acted in the matter,
on the FSG Web site appeared an announcement that Dempsey had joined the club, then managed by Brendan Rodgers
Werner gave a personal apology to Mohammed al-Fayed
, owner of
Fulham at the time, and Liverpool’s then-managing director, Ian Ayre
, said in a public statement, “Our club can do better and we pledge that it will.” Fulham officials
withdrew the complaint.
Such violations are not confined to the first team. Liverpool is under a transfer embargo at the academy level for approaching a 12-year-old registered with Stoke
City and offering him and his family inducements to change clubs.
Some of the club’s success under Klopp can be credited to its acquisition of players from Southampton. In the past
three years, it has spent about $120 million to acquire Adam Lallana
, Dejan Lovren
, Rickie Lambert
, Nathaniel Clyne
, and Sadio Mane
. But Southampton has rebuffed all
attempts to lure away Van Dijk, who came to St. Mary’s two years ago in a $14 million transfer from Celtic and scored seven goals in 68 appearances prior to being sidelined by a severe ankle
injury in January.
He sat out of the rest of the season but despite the setback, his talent, experience and age (25) plus a five-year deal will make for tough bargaining sessions when
clubs come calling.
“The trading in the last three summers was often out of necessity,” Southampton chairman Ralph Krueger told the Daily Telegraph
. “We have contracts in place like never before.
We go into the first summer ever where we do not have to sell a player. We built longevity in the contracts and that gives you a chance to move with a core of players into multiple seasons and build
some synergy. Our goal is to keep the core in place.”