The January transfer window has not opened, but silly season certainly has: Liverpool confirmed on Wednesday (Dec 27) in England a world record transfer fee for a defender as they agreed on a £75 million (S$135 million) deal for Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk.
This not only tops the £53m Manchester City paid Tottenham for Kyle Walker by more than 30 per cent, but it also shows how desperate Jurgen Klopp is to soothe his backache.
Desperation or decisiveness? SoccerNation looks at the five most expensive defenders in football:
1. VIRGIL VAN DIJK, 26, DUTCH
Southampton to Liverpool for £75m (December 2017)
It is no secret that Klopp has long coveted the Dutch defender after a potential deal broke down acrimoniously last summer.
But the surprise came in the form of the price tag that made the 26-year-old – the sixth Saint to cross over to Anfield in the past four years – the world’s most expensive defender. After all, he has played 12 games for a backline that has leaked seven more than Liverpool’s 23 goals in 20 matches.
Well, at least former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher was convinced, as he said van Dijk is “better in the air than me, quicker than me and more composed”.
2. KYLE WALKER, 27, ENGLISH
Tottenham to Manchester City for £53m (July 2017)
Manchester City’s Kyle Walker in action during the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United and Manchester City at St James’ Park, Newcastle, England, on Dec 27, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS
Another protracted transfer deal that followed months of speculation, Walker took Pep Guardiola’s summer expenditure to over £100m on just full-backs alone, as the Englishman overtook team-mate Benjamin Mendy’s fee by £2m.
The City manager had identified the full-back position as his team’s weakness and Walker justified his signing by being virtually an ever-present, playing 18 games and notching four assists this term.
His City career began ominously though. Just nine days after starting his first game for his new club – a 2-0 away win against Brighton – he was sent off for two bookable offences in his home debut as Everton nicked a 1-1 draw. The good news is, that was the only blemish of their league campaign after 20 games.
3. BENJAMIN MENDY, 23, FRENCH
Monaco to Manchester City for £52m (July 2017)
If Mendy was truly calculative, the Frenchman could have claimed to be the world’s most expensive defender in the past few months, as Walker’s transfer fee included £3m in add-ons.
But he should be more focused on recovering from a knee surgery that should rule him out until April.
Still, Guardiola rates Mendy highly enough to suggest that his absence prevents forwards Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus from starting together, as he said: “When you have Mendy, you play wide and the winger can go inside. Without Mendy, (Fabian) Delph cannot do that and you have to go wide with (Leroy) Sane. That is the only reason why they don’t play together.”
4. DAVID LUIZ, 30, BRAZILIAN
Chelsea to Paris Saint-Germain for £50m (June 2014)
After four seasons at Stamford Bridge, in which he won the Champions League, the Europa League and the FA Cup, David Luiz – also known as Sideshow Bob for his resemblance to The Simpsons character – became the main draw as Paris Saint-Germain began amassing expensive acquisitions.
Able to play as a defensive midfielder as well as a centre back obviously helped convince the French giants to part with £50m, then a world record transfer fee for a defender. And Luiz played his part in landing back-to-back trebles (Ligue 1, Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue) in his two seasons there.
He then made a surprise return to Chelsea last year for £34m, and immediately helped the London side reclaim the English Premier League title.
5. JOHN STONES, 23, ENGLISH
Everton to Manchester City for £47.5m (August 2016)
Manchester City’s English defender John Stones at the English FA cup third round football match between West Ham United and Manchester City at the London Stadium in London on Jan 6, 2016. PHOTO: AFP
While he was criticised in his first season at the Etihad Stadium as City laboured to a third-place finish last term, Stones has grown from strength to strength to the point he is now a starting centre-back for England.
This season, he has been rock solid, limiting opponents to just seven goals in the 12 league games he played before he suffered a hamstring injury, which he should recover from soon.
The Englishman’s composure with the ball dovetails perfectly with Guardiola’s philosophy of playing out from the back, and he is part of the reason City are one of the most watchable teams this season.