It’s one year since Virgil van Dijk completed his £75 million move from Southampton to Liverpool - and what a remarkable impact the Dutch centre-back has made at Anfield.
The Reds’ defence was a bit of a mess prior to Van Dijk’s arrival and in desperate need of some proper organisation and leadership.
Van Dijk brought both in abundance and now Liverpool boast the best defensive record not only in the Premier League but in all of Europe’s top leagues this season.
Liverpool, who currently sit seven points clear at the top of the Premier League table, have conceded just eight goals in 20 matches this term.
They are still unbeaten, too, but that almost certainly wouldn’t be the case had they not splashed the cash on Van Dijk 12 months ago.
An ever-increasing number of football fans regard the 27-year-old as the best central defender on the planet.
Chris Sutton, meanwhile, went one step further recently by claiming Van Dijk is currently the best player in the world.
One thing’s for sure: Van Dijk has made that eye-watering transfer fee feel like short change during his first year with the Reds.
But what did English football’s leading pundits say about Liverpool spending £75m on Van Dijk when the deal was announced?
We’ve gone back through the archives and some of the opinions look rather, well, interesting now.
"Southampton have got one hell of a deal," Shearer told BBC 5Live.
"Van Dijk is a good player, yes, but for £75m? No, he's not worth it at all.”
In fairness to Shearer, he was far from the only person who thought Van Dijk was massively overpriced at £75 million.
It still looks a bit awkward now, though, doesn’t it?
“Better in the air than me, quicker than me, more composed and doesn’t score own goals!”
The Liverpool legend posted a typically self-deprecating tweet following Van Dijk’s big-money arrival.
Oh, and he also took a pop at Man Utd (obviously)…
“Not sure, but double the price of [Victor] Lindeolf sounds cheap to me!!”
"It's a lot of money! When I first heard it I thought 'wow, £75m'. I'm not surprised by the actual transfer but that is an incredible amount of money,” he told Sky Sports.
"Liverpool need defenders and have to pay to get him. That's the way the market is and it isn't going to change."
"It sounds like a fantastic deal for Southampton," he added. "But if Liverpool can stop their creaking in big matches when put under pressure then it will be a good deal for Liverpool as well because people will forget about the money that has been spent in a year or two if they can win trophies and get the defence right.
"Liverpool have to get the defence right, in the bigger matches they do stress quite quickly and can crack, so from their point of view, paying that sort of money hopefully it pays off, but for Southampton they would snap your hand off for £75m.
"Over the last few years they have lost some good players for good money but nothing at this level. It seems like a fantastic sell.
"I was surprised in the summer when I saw £50m for Kyle Walker but he has done brilliantly and it's just the way the market has shifted to an incredible level that shocked me."
Neville was stunned by the size of the transfer fee - as many of us were - and even called it a “fantastic deal” for Southampton.
However, the former Man Utd captain conceded that the deal would look good for Liverpool if Van Dijk could sort out the club’s unconvincing defence.
"They sold Coutinho to Barcelona for a huge fee, £146m, and have brought in Virgil van Dijk for £75m - a player they badly needed," the Sky Sports pundit was quoted as saying by Sports Mole. Ultimately, they needed a centre-back more than they needed Coutinho.
"If they can get Van Dijk to the level they're hoping they can get him to and he can be the leader they need in that defence, then he can elevate them to the next level. And then, next season, they can look to compete with Manchester City.
"Given Liverpool's strength in attack and weaknesses at the back, it looks like it has been a great trade for them.”
Redknapp gets a lot of stick, but that’s a decent prediction - especially the part about Liverpool challenging Man City during the 2018-19 campaign.
Spot on, Jamie.
He’s not a pundit, but we still thought it was worth including Guardiola’s comments from January 2018.
"Liverpool took an amazing player, Van Dijk is an exceptional central defender. That's a price we'll see (again) in the future. If he plays six or seven years at a high level it would be cheap," the Catalan coach was quoted as saying by the Liverpool Echo.
"John Stones, when he came here, people said he was too expensive. Now he's too cheap. It always depends on the value of what happens on the pitch."
Pep knew.News Now - Sport News