Liverpool had drawn up a lit of three centre-halves they would have tried signing had efforts to land Virgil van Dijk proved unsuccessful, a report claims.
The towering Dutchman moved to Anfield a year ago in a world-record £75million move from Southampton – and has gone from strength to strength in a Liverpool side that currently tops the Premier League by six points.
A large part of their success this season has been Van Dijk, with Liverpool’s watertight defence conceding just seven times at the halfway point of the season – a figure that puts them on course to beat the 15 a miserly Chelsea side let in during the 2004/05 season.
And while Van Dijk has earned plenty of plaudits for his displays, his move to Anfield almost never materialised after Liverpool were forced to issue an apology amid claims of an illegal approach to the then-Southampton star the previous summer.
Now a report in The Times claims Klopp and his team of scouts at Anfield had been tracking 34 different centre-backs and graded their performances in over 15 games.
And from that list, it’s claimed Liverpool had drawn up four Grade A targets – of which Van Dijk was one – whom they wanted to sign.
Also on the shortlist were four ‘Grade B’ defenders, who were young players likely to develop into ‘A grade’ stars.
While the report did not name the second tier of targets, The Times does claim that the three alternatives to Van Dijk were Aymeric Laporte, Kalidou Koulibaly and Jerome Boateng.
Laporte, of course, went on later that month to complete a £57million switch to Manchester City, while Koulibaly looks the man most likely to shatter the £75m fee Liverpool paid for Van Dijk, with Manchester United said to have seen a £95m offer rebuffed.
And while Van Dijk has absolutely no reason to look back, the defender admits there is one area of his game he needs to improve on.
“I was very happy to get my second goal for the club at Wolves last week, but scoring more is something I can definitely get better at,” Van Dijk told Liverpool’s official website.
“It’s not in my head, though; it’s not like I am thinking ‘I need to score more goals!’ all the time.
“I know I can improve, improve on certain things, and definitely in attacking, scoring from set-pieces, or be more dangerous.”