Southampton centre-back Virgil van Dijk has been advised to spurn interest from Liverpool and remain at St Mary's to continue his development. Speculation regarding the 25-year-old's future has swelled over the past week, with the Reds linked with a January move for the defender.
The Sun understands Jurgen Klopp is ready to spend £40m on Van Dijk and youngster Sam McQueen to help cure his club's leaky defence, which has shipped 14 goals in the Premier League this season – the most of any side in the top five. Saints, by contrast, have conceded just 12 in their 13 league matches, with only leaders Chelsea having a tighter back-line.
Van Dijk, who signed a new six-year contract in May, joined Southampton from Celtic in 2015. He has emerged as one of the stand-out performers under new boss Claude Puel, having played every minute of the club's top-flight campaign this term. But the Frenchman wants his trusty defender to remain on the south coast and reject any interest from Liverpool in January.
"He has developed very well since the beginning of the season with his responsibilities. Regularly he is fantastic in the physical, in the technical," Puel said, according to Sky Sports. "I said to him at the beginning of the season he must become one of the five, six best defenders in the world. He has the capacity. It is difficult to see on him something better. It is important he continues with the stability, calm, and at Southampton it is good for this and for him."
Reports regarding Liverpool's interest in Van Dijk were followed by comments made by Micky Quinn, who was born on Merseyside but represented Newcastle United among others during his playing career. The ex-striker claimed the Anfield club would blow local rivals Everton "out of the water" with an offer for the ex-Hoops defender, according to the Liverpool Echo.
Meanwhile, former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson has claimed that should Liverpool launch a £50m bid for van Dijk they would be all-but assured of winning the Premier League title. Klopp's side trail leaders Chelsea by a point with a third of the season complete but could look to add to their squad in the new year.
"For me, I think if Liverpool get together and go and buy Van Dijk for £50m in January, they will take some beating," Merson told talkSPORT. "They've got the firepower going forward, I just don't think they've got it at the back. I know they've done it this season so far, but defensively they aren't going to be good enough [against the big teams]. But if they can go out and get Van Dijk, I think £50m, that nearly wins you the Premier League."