Liverpool overlooked three of the world’s top central defenders in favour of forking out a club record transfer fee on the signing of Virgil van Dijk in January.
The Reds made the Dutchman the most expensive defender in history when they splashed out £70million as a means of rectifying their defensive woes.
A deal to bring Van Dijk to Anfield concluded what had been a long-running saga, in which Liverpool had seen a summer enquiry rebuffed after accusations of an illegal approach.
Their extensive search for a new leader at the base of the team evidently took them across Europe, before the Reds’ brass narrowed down their options to four standout candidates.
Explaining the club’s scouting efforts, the Times’ Paul Joyce wrote: “Over an 18-month period, Liverpool’s had tracked 34 different centre backs, analysing strengths and weaknesses in more than 15 games each one had played, before the list was narrowed down to four “A grade” targets and four “B grade” (youngsters who might become “A grade”) in due course.”
“Two of the other A-graders at the time were Athletic Bilbao’s Aymeric Laporte and Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly, with the final one potentially Bayern Munich’s Jerôme Boateng. Van Dijk remained top of the shortlist.”
Van Dijk has since buried concerns over his price-tag by turning a mistake-ridden defence into the Premier League’s best.
His unwavering superiority in all aspects of the game has already seen him widely-deemed as the most accomplished Liverpool centre-back fans have seen in their lifetime.
Doubts that one man could make such a monumental difference have been proven wrong. Not only has the 27-year-old personally frustrated opposition sides, but he has also lifted the performance levels of those around him.
Liverpool head into their Boxing Day clash against Newcastle with a league-high 11 clean sheets, having conceded just seven goals so far this season. Their no.4 has been a major influence behind that.