Despite the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City also competing for his signature, Van Dijk was said to have chosen to move to Anfield following private discussions in Blackpool with manager Jürgen Klopp. Such talks were news to Southampton, who promptly threatened to report Liverpool to the Premier League for illegally approaching their player.
Liverpool then officially ended their interest in van Dijk and publicly apologised to Southampton, leaving their pursuit of the player dead in the water. Van Dijk was Liverpool’s number one summer target and their failure to capture him leaves their plans for this window back at square one.
Here, we look through seven possible alternatives to the Dutchman, plus one curveball…
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Napoli’s Koulibaly will be the preferred alternative for those Liverpool fans still reeling from their club’s farcical climbdown on Wednesday.
Like van Dijk, he is powerful and composed on the ball, but he has also attracted interest from some of the Premier League’s top clubs and would not come cheaply.
Aurelio De Laurentiis, Napoli’s president, claims Chelsea had a €55m bid rejected for the 25-year-old Senegal international last summer.
Liverpool would probably have to stump up a similar figure – if not more – in order to bring Koulibaly to Anfield, but such a high-profile signing would at least ease the pain of the van Dijk blunder somewhat.
Stefan de Vrij
Reports in Italy on Thursday morning suggest de Vrij, an international team-mate of van Dijk, could also be of interest to decision makers at Anfield.
According to Sky Italia, the Lazio centre-back was the subject of a €20m bid from Anfield, only for that offer to be rejected outright by the Serie A club.
De Vrij is reportedly valued at a figure closer to €30m, despite the 25-year-old having only one year remaining on his current contract at the Stadio Olimpico.
Liverpool players who could leave this summer
Having caught the eye for Burnley this season, Keane has been widely linked with a return to his boyhood club Manchester United.
However, as The Independent revealed on Wednesday, the Old Trafford outfit have turned their attention to Benfica’s Victor Lindelof, downgrading Keane to only a ‘back-up option’.
With Keane’s future now less certain, Liverpool have the option of reviving their reported interest from a few months ago.
The robust yet agile Tah would be seen as an ideal candidate to slot in alongside Joel Matip by many Liverpool supporters, but the likelihood of the Bayer Leverkusen prodigy arriving at Anfield remains remote for the time being.
Tah dismissed speculation linking him with a move to the Premier League earlier this year, claiming that he was happy with life at Bayer Leverkusen.
“We have reached the last 16 in the Champions League,” he said in January, before his side’s elimination to Atletico Madrid and Roger Schmidt’s dismissal. “If somebody wants to call it a stepping stone, I can only say: ‘You can’t ask for much more.’’
Want to know more? The Independent’s Jack Pitt-Brooke profiled him last year, noting that he “marries that technical skill and awareness with a size and athleticism that is almost unrivalled at the top of the European game.”
Manolas is another centre-back to have been linked with a switch to Anfield in recent months, though credible reports of a solid interest in the player are thin on the ground.
Other top European clubs, including Internazionale, are leading the chase for the Greece international, whose contract expires in the summer of 2019.
Impressive despite Ajax’s lacklustre showing in their Europa League final defeat to Manchester United last month, Sanchez has the raw potential to develop into one of European football’s leading centre-backs.
Interest in the 20-year-old Colombian is high, but before casting their eye over the player, Liverpool may want to consider whether they are willing to take a gamble on a developing player or spend a similar amount of money on the finished product.
The Real Sociedad defender was consistently linked with Liverpool two summers ago, before Brendan Rodgers’ truncated fourth season in charge, only for the speculation to cool.
Klopp has shown no indication that he is interested in Martinez, who is nevertheless rated as one of La Liga’s better centre-halves.
Comfortable on the ball, Martinez is also left-footed, allowing him to play alongside Matip without the Cameroonian being forced to switch sides in the centre of defence.
And finally, the option few are considering, but the one that could save Fenway Sports Group a pretty penny.
There are fewer centre-backs more similar to van Dijk than Mamadou Sakho, the Liverpool outcast who impressed during the second half of the season while on loan at Crystal Palace.
A fan favourite, Sakho was exiled by Klopp last summer after disciplinary issues during the club’s pre-season tour of the United States. Sakho had missed the end of the previous season after being suspended for an alleged doping violation; allegations which were later dismissed by Uefa.
Sakho’s passing out of defence became a key component of Liverpool’s attacking play during Klopp’s first campaign and though he clearly feels the Frenchman can be a disruptive influence, could a return be the answer to Liverpool’s problems?