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Klopp offers insight into Liverpool's successful pursuit of 'world-class' Van Dijk

12:25 BST 16/09/2019
Virgil van Dijk Liverpool
The German boss claims that the Reds "waited" patiently before offering the Dutchman a chance to take a "step up" and move to Anfield in 2018

Jurgen Klopp has revealed the process behind Liverpool's successful pursuit of Virgil van Dijk last year, insisting the centre-back has already fulfilled his "world-class" potential.

The Reds captured the Netherlands international from Southampton in January 2018, for a then-world record fee of £75 million ($93m).

The 28-year-old has since evolved into one of the finest defenders in Europe, helping Liverpool fight for the Premier League title and conquer the Champions League for the sixth time.

Van Dijk is the favourite to win the 2019 Ballon d'Or, having already been recognised by UEFA as Player of the Year for 2018-19.

Reminiscing on the years before he arrived at Anfield, Klopp has revealed that the ex-Southampton star did not immediately register on his radar.

"I cannot say that I watched him for the last six years and thought 'ahh I wait a little bit longer and then I get him' but the two years he played at Southampton before he got injured, that was really incredible," Klopp told the Liverpool Echo.

"I saw something of him at Celtic, but I didn't see this world-class player, already. I saw a very-good centre-half, but I didn't need one at that time.

"And then when we needed him in the moment, it was clear, he can make the next step with us. The way we play, where everyone is responsible for everything, it gives defenders the chance to improve a lot because it is not like they are alone a lot of times on the pitch and have to sort it for you.

"There are moments but it doesn't happen a lot because we defend really as a unit. That makes life a bit easier but anyway, he has gone from a world-class potential to a world-class player. There's still a step to go but he made this step and he deserves all these awards, that is how it is.

"There was no one really who was better and it is nice."

Van Dijk's journey to the very highest level of the game has been gradual, with his first taste of Premier League football not forthcoming until he moved to St Mary's from Celtic in 2015.

The Dutchman honed his craft at Southampton before completing Klopp's line up at Liverpool, impressing with his leadership qualities and natural ability to read the game.

Klopp feels the younger generation can look towards Van Dijk's career path as an inspirational example, as he added: "He's been very good.

"Look, the nice thing about his career is that he was not 16 years old and everyone saw he would be a world-class player. And it shows, to not just him, but everyone out there, you need talent - because he obviously had talent - but it is not about the judgement other people make about you when you are 16, 17, 18. It is always about what you make of it.

"Life is like this, we all have a situation, these are different but you have to make the best of it. That is the job in life and I'm really happy for him that he could show all these doubters in his past that they were wrong."