Football: Jurgen Klopp defends Virgil van Dijk price tag: It's about the player, not the price

Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk chases the ball during an English Premier League football match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Southampton.
Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk chases the ball during an English Premier League football match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Southampton.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • Jurgen Klopp has played down the £75 million (S$135 million) fee Liverpool agreed to pay Southampton to make Virgil van Dijk the world's most expensive defender on Monday.

It is a club-record fee, surpassing the £48 million deal the Reds made with RB Leipzig to take Naby Keita to Anfield from at the end of the season. In the summer, Neymar moved from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record €222 million (S$354.6 million) and Klopp suggested that huge fees are the new reality.

"I'm surprised about the development (in transfer market prices) in the last two years," the Liverpool manager told a press conference ahead of his side's Premier League clash against Leicester City today.

"If you want to sign a player, the last thing I think about is the price. That's not because I throw money around but it's about the player. Not nice but that is the market. We have to adapt. That's how it is."

Leicester manager Claude Puel is delighted his side will not have to face van Dijk, who played for him at Southampton, but he is backing the Netherlands centreback to become a huge success at Anfield.

"I am happy for him and happy he can't play against us, which is a good thing," said the Frenchman.

"It is fantastic possibility for Liverpool. He is one of the best defenders in the world and he has all the qualities to become the best."

THE NEW REALITY

If you want to sign a player, the last thing I think about is the price. That's not because I throw money around but it's about the player. Not nice but that is the market. We have to adapt. That's how it is.

JURGEN KLOPP , Liverpool manager, on having to adapt to the transfer market

Puel has led Leicester to five wins and three draws in 11 games since taking charge in October, adding possession play and crisp passing to Leicester's counter-punching DNA.

Klopp is well aware of Leicester's progress and pointed to striker Jamie Vardy's brilliant goal in last week's 2-2 draw with Manchester United as an example of the fluid interplay between their attackers.

"We didn't make the analysis so far but I saw the Manchester United game - they really play football now. They are still a wonderful counter-attacking team," he told the club's website.

"The first goal they scored against United was 'wow', a fantastic pass from (Demarai) Gray and (Riyad) Mahrez was in behind waiting for Vardy. It looks quite easy.

"They are fine-tuned and a good football-playing side. That may be the biggest change since Claude Puel was in."

The Reds have three games in seven days, with the Leicester match followed by a league trip to Burnley on Monday and an FA Cup home tie against Everton on Friday.

Klopp could rotate his squad today with Sadio Mane, an unused substitute in their 5-0 win over Swansea, the likeliest candidate to come in.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 30, 2017, with the headline 'It's about the player, not the price: Klopp'. Print Edition | Subscribe