The presence of Jurgen Klopp proved key in both Virgil van Dijk and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain electing to sign for Liverpool despite interest from elsewhere.
The Athletic today published an article which revealed that the Reds duo were both targeted by Chelsea back in 2017, only for the pair to snub the Londoners’ advances and accept their respective offers to come to Anfield.
As reported in The Athletic, both players had reservations about then-Blues manager Antonio Conte, who was renowned as a pragmatist and hard taskmaster and about whom both Van Dijk and Oxlade-Chamberlain had doubts about his longevity at Stamford Bridge.
The Athletic added that the Dutch defender was also won over by Liverpool after numerous Reds fans begged the then-Southampton man to sign for them when he attended the 2017 Champions League final in Cardiff. Meanwhile, the England midfielder is understood to have been further deterred from Chelsea by Conte’s plans to play him on the wing, a deployment which persuaded him to swap Arsenal for Liverpool as Klopp assured him he would be used in a central midfield role at Anfield.
The influence of the Reds’ manager cannot be understated in relation to Van Dijk and Oxlade-Chamberlain preferring the Merseysiders to Chelsea. It must be remembered that, in 2017, the Blues won the Premier League for the second time in three seasons while Liverpool only secured fourth place on the final day, 17 points adrift of the summit, and still had to negotiate a qualifying tie against Hoffenheim to ensure their return to the Champions League for only the second time in eight years.
On the face of it, Chelsea would have seemed a far more enticing proposition three years ago than Liverpool, so for Klopp to sway both Van Dijk and Oxlade-Chamberlain his way reflects on his pulling power as a manager. The German is renowned for forming a deep bond with players – Jonathan Wilson described him in The Guardian as “a hugely charismatic figure who inspires players with his personality” – and his preference for attacking football has been praised by Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, with whom he has fought a frenetic Premier League title battle.
Klopp has been true to his word as regards playing Oxlade-Chamberlain through the middle – the majority of his Liverpool appearances have seen him deployed centrally – and events of the 2017/18 season ultimately vindicated his and Van Dijk’s decisions to snub Conte’s Chelsea. As noted by the Evening Standard, the Italian fell out with Diego Costa at Stamford Bridge and also reportedly drew the scorn of David Luiz and Willian, while a difference of views with the club’s hierarchy saw him lose his job in 2018.
Liverpool’s success in reaching the last two Champions League finals (winning one), being pipped in last season’s Premier League title race despite collecting 97 points, and on course to romp to this year’s league title has justified Van Dijk’s and Oxlade-Chamberlain’s decisions to come to Anfield. However, at a time when such glory seemed far more likely to fall Chelsea’s way, the influence of Klopp in swaying both players his way speaks volumes for the pulling power that he holds.
Liverpool fans, how glad are you that Van Dijk and Oxlade-Chamberlain snubbed Chelsea in favour of the Reds before their respective moves to Anfield? Comment below with your views!