Virgil van Dijk could show why Liverpool will avoid David Alaba transfer – Liverpool Echo

Virgil van Dijk could show why Liverpool will avoid David Alaba transfer – Liverpool Echo

Liverpool have a big centre-back issue – whether or not they’re in the market for David Alaba.

After Lionel Messi who, statistically speaking at least, can be considered to be the greatest footballer to ever walk the Earth, Alaba rivals the Reds’ own Gini Wijnaldum as being the most high-profile prospective free agent on the market this summer.

Jurgen Klopp – arguably a centre-back light after not replacing Zenit St Petersburg-bound Dejan Lovren last summer before the unforeseen long-term injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez – will surely be on the lookout for a new recruit at the heart of his defence.

Indeed before last week’s FA Cup third round tie at Aston Villa the Liverpool manager declared that under normal circumstances his club would be attempting to sign a centre-back this month but the prospect is unlikely due to the financial implications of the global coronavirus pandemic.

As one of the few clubs that possesses both the profile and purse strings to entice a superstar of Alaba’s stature, the reigning Premier League champions’ name continues to be linked to his signature.

A versatile performer who can also operate as a left-back or central midfielder, the 75-capped Austrian international enjoys a rich pedigree of over a decade at the elite end of the European game at Bayern Munich, one of the continent’s biggest clubs and reigning Champions League holders.

Over this time he has helped them to eight consecutive Bundesliga titles and proved himself as a durable athlete, topping 40 games plus across all competitions in six of the last nine seasons.

Still only 28, Alaba is arguably at the peak of his powers but the noises coming out of Anfield seem to suggest that this genuine world-class player, likely to become available for nothing, is not on Klopp’s wish list.

It’s been suggested that the Reds, among others, have balked at the player’s reputed wage demands of £12million-a-year (after tax) but the Independent claim he is not part of their long-term thinking – and ultimately it’s down to a factor of size.

Their piece states: “While the defender’s skillset and versatility is appreciated by Liverpool, he is understood to be too small – his height is 1.8m in comparison to Van Dijk (1.93m), Matip (1.95m), Gomez (1.88m) – and not strong enough aerially for their requirements at centre-back.”

If you look at the centre-backs that Klopp has brought in since arriving at Anfield, including the aforementioned Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip who stand approximately 6ft 4in and 6ft 4.5in, they’ve all been towering individuals.

Ragnar Klavan was 6ft 2in, on-loan Steven Caulker was 6ft 3in and even teenager Sepp van den Berg is 6ft 2.5in and at his age might still be growing.

However, Liverpool’s fondness of statuesque centre-halves is not merely a modern fixation.

Admittedly, along with the goalkeeper, the man at the heart of your defence is usually the tallest player in your team but great centre-backs such as Franco Baresi, Fabio Cannavaro, Ronald Koeman, Carles Puyol and Ivan Cordoba were all less than 6ft tall.

Even 5ft 8in Javier Mascherano flourished in the position during his latter years at Barcelona but it seems that in British football and at Anfield in particular, there is a requirement for bigger individuals.

The phenomenon can be traced back to Tom ‘Tiny’ Bradshaw, a large, physically imposing player whose nickname came straight out of the ‘Little John’ ironic category used in the legendary tales of Robin Hood and his Merry Men.

Standing at 6ft 3in, the Coatbridge-born Bradshaw was one of Scotland’s ‘Wembley Wizards’ who defeated England 5-1 in 1928.

It proved to be his only cap but less than two years later he joined Liverpool from Bury for a club record £8,000 fee.

The man who he’d marked out of the game that day in north London – who was on course for his record-breaking 60-goal tally – was Everton legend Dixie Dean.

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Dean later said of Bradshaw: “In all the times I played against him he never used any of those sly little tricks that others did, like pulling you back by your shirt or shorts. Tiny went out to play football and let the best man win.”

A generation later, Bradshaw’s compatriot Bill Shankly drafted in another giant Scot to Anfield in the shape of Ron Yeats.

When introducing the powerful 6ft 2in Aberdonian, who would captain Liverpool to a brace of Division One titles and a first-ever FA Cup, to the press upon signing in 1961 (ahead of promotion after eight years outside the top-flight), Shankly is said to have quipped: “Take a walk around my centre half, gentlemen. He’s a colossus!”

A third Scot, Alan Hansen, regarded by many as one of Liverpool’s best-ever players in the position, also stands at a statuesque 6ft 2in, but in truth ball-playing centre-back ‘Jockey’ excelled through his reading of the game rather than physical prowess.

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On recalling his partnership with Phil Thompson, Hansen said: “It was like telepathy. Neither of us could head it, neither of us could tackle, my missus was quicker than he was, but we did alright.”

In the 1990s, another 6ft 2in centre-back Neil Ruddock was a larger-than-life presence in Liverpool’s defence.

With Roy Evans often deploying a three-man backline, ‘Razor’ was the dominant figure with the likes of John Scales and Phil Babb alongside him.

Going into the new millennium, the Reds scaled even greater heights in the shape of Sami Hyypia, with the 6ft 4in Finn serving them for a decade between 1999-2009.

And of course the currently injured trio of Van Dijk, Matip and Gomez are all in and around that height.

Whoever Klopp does pick to join them in the coming months, it’s likely to be a tall order, literally.