It’s 9:30 on a Friday morning, and I sit here thinking about the Virgil van Dijk transfer saga that is tearing fans apart of both Liverpool and Southampton. That might say more about me than anything else, but still, this is a problem for all three parties present.
I even think that this debacle is more important, and could be more influential to both Liverpool and Southampton than any transfer that has come before. There is a lot riding here, and the importance of this cannot be underestimated.
Virgil van Dijk has established himself as a top-5 central defender in the English Premier League, and if you disagree with that you are just plain wrong. Anyone who has watched Southampton at this past season knows his worth, and if he moves, he deserves the title of the most expensive defender of all time. “What makes this different than any other expensive transfer of a Southampton player to Liverpool?” you may ask, and it’s a good question, but there is a lot more depth to this transfer going on here than initially meets the eye.
On the back of selling our best players over and over again to Liverpool in a yearly occurrence, over time this builds visible tension. When a Southampton fan can look over on match days and see half of a squad that used to be wearing red and white stripes instead of the solid Liverpool red, this becomes increasingly frustrating for both fans and administration.
To Southampton fans, it feels like they are the average kid at recess, and Liverpool are the bully taking their lunch money every day. Liverpool have the bigger stadium, more trophies, and -most importantly- more money to offer players. As the scale of money that players get keeps growing exponentially, the more draw that has for players to make the move, especially if they are of quality to perform at the highest level like Virgil van Dijk. The continual selling to Liverpool though is becoming the bigger issue at hand.
Southampton can’t keep this up. Selling star player after star player isn’t going to turn out well in the long run, even if money is still being made for the club. Southampton do pride themselves on their development of young players, and for good reason, but there is a sense of overconfidence and complacency that could creep in. If the bully keeps taking your lunch money, you can’t eat. Eventually, what if Southampton can’t bring up the next Virgil van Dijk, or Adam Lallana, or Sadio Mane? What happens when the players can’t be found or flop at the club? It could spell disaster for what the people at St. Mary’s have tried so hard to build up.
Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte, the last two Saints captains, both left in unceremonious circumstances, and with van Dijk not handling his situation well, it really could be the third captain in a row to leave Southampton with a bad taste in the mouth, all in the last few years. This is not normal, and needs to be addressed.
With Virgil van Dijk being handed the captains armband last season after Jose Fonte’s departure, it looked like a sign of intent from both the player himself and the club that he would be staying for the foreseeable future; especially after he signed a brand new six year contract in the summer of 2016. After the displeasure of Fonte and Lallana’s departures, seeing a third in a row in arguably the best of the bunch would sting like no other. It would be the biggest blow in the ongoing boxing match.
For Liverpool, and now Everton it seems, they view Southampton as their easy market. They trust Southampton to keep churning out quality talents, and then hand them over. This is a bad set up for everyone involved.
Southampton have the danger of falling into a pattern of being bullied by Liverpool, and doing so will prevent the progress of growth that the club has experienced over the past several years. As the great poet Drake points out, “Don’t get hyped for the moment then start to back pedal.” Southampton need to hold their ground in this transfer saga; it’s crucial for the St. Mary’s faithful and other players looking in.