Alan Shearer has held his hands up to have been proven wrong with his initial verdict on Liverpool’s acquisition of Virgil van Dijk in January 2018.
It’s now been nearly six years since the Reds paid £75m – then a world-record fee for a defender (BBC Sport) – to sign the Netherlands international from Southampton, with the transfer going on to be widely hailed as one of the greatest coups in LFC’s modern history.
Speaking on the BBC Match of the Day Top 10 Podcast, the Premier League’s all-time leading goalscorer thought that the Merseysiders had paid over the odds at the time, a stance he’s now revised.
When Gary Lineker asked “That bring us on to Van Dijk, he’s given so much to Liverpool. What a signing from Southampton, wasn’t it?”, Shearer replied: “I think I said at the time that it was a lot of money for a centre-back. You can’t be right about everything, can you?”.
To be fair to the ex-Newcastle striker, a £75m transfer six years ago did represent a gamble from Liverpool, whose hierarchy realised that they needed to roll the dice in order to fix a hugely problematic position at the time.
Within 18 months, Van Dijk had repaid that fee with interest. In his first full season at Anfield (during which he played all but 35 minutes), the Reds conceded a miserly 22 Premier League goals – we’d shipped 28 by the time he made his top-flight debut for us just beyond the halfway point of the 2017/18 campaign.
In 2019 he scooped the PFA Player of the Year award and came second in the Ballon D’Or, while also winning the Champions League and famously going 50 league games without being dribbled past.
The effect that the Dutchman had on Liverpool’s defence was transformative, to put it mildly, and he’s now showing signs of getting back to near those levels following the serious injury which prematurely ended his 2020/21 season.
Shearer mightn’t have been the only one whose eyebrows were raised by how much the Reds paid for Van Dijk, but goodness the current captain has proven to be worth every last penny of that outlay, and more.