Liverpool told to axe former world-class star who’s ‘disappeared’ and regressed to pre-Reds levels

Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah, Liverpool, May 2022

Tony Cascarino has told Liverpool it could be time to “consider selling” Virgil van Dijk, as his quality has “disappeared” and he looks like the Southampton version of himself.

Van Dijk has been one of the Premier League’s very best defenders for much of his time at Anfield. He’s famously difficult to dribble past and in August 2022 it was reported he’d gone 65 games without anyone having beaten him.

His quality at stopping people getting past has been a major reason for Liverpool’s recent successes.

When they won the league in 2019/20, they conceded the least goals of any Premier League side – 33. That’s less than a goal a game, and Van Dijk played in every single league fixture that season.

The Dutchman also missed just one game in the Reds’ triumphant Champions League season of 2018/19. They conceded 11 goals in 12 games and kept clean sheets in the second leg of the semi-final as well as in the final.

However, this season, the majority of the side has been below the standards that were set in those triumphs.

Jurgen Klopp’s side are currently eighth in the league and seven points behind fourth-placed Tottenham.

Van Dijk has played in the majority of league games this season, missing four of late through injury. He’s also yet to miss a game in the Champions League, with Liverpool being dominated last time out.

Liverpool encouraged to axe Van Dijk

Indeed, the Reds were routed 5-2 by Real Madrid. Cascarino felt Van Dijk was due blame for his role in one of the five goals Liverpool conceded.

“[Joe] Gomez plays Rodrygo onside and is then unfortunate with a deflection, but Virgil van Dijk should not escape criticism,” he said in The Times.

“As the senior centre back, he should recognise that his partner is struggling and ensure the back line is flat. However, the Dutchman was often raising his eyebrows or looking to the ground.

“This body language reminds me of Van Dijk’s final season at Southampton, when he was pushing for a move to Anfield. Five years on, I think it could be time for Liverpool to consider selling him themselves.

“The Van Dijk that was among the best in the world has disappeared.”

Too soon to to axe star

Granted, Van Dijk has not been the world-class star that he had been over the past few seasons. However, none of Liverpool’s team have been at the same standard they had been.

As such, it’s unfair to pick out one man to receive the brunt of the criticism. Once they find their feet again, which is likely, there’s a good chance he’ll be back to his best.

He won’t have just completely lost his touch immediately after a number of good seasons.

While the squad could change a fair bit over the next couple of windows, keeping hold of one of the star’s of the club’s recent successes seems a smart plan.

It’s been recommended Klopp should get rid of a number of other faltering players to save himself.

READ MORE: Jurgen Klopp sack latest: Liverpool boss told he must axe six stars to save himself and revive Reds