Premier League • England

Liverpool loanee named fifth best player in Europe in his position; Van Dijk vs Saliba produces clear winner

Liverpool loanee Sepp Van den Berg

A loaned out Liverpool player might be the answer to who replaces Joel Matip at Anfield next season, while a clear winner has emerged in the debate over who is having the better season between Arsenal ace William Saliba and Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk.

Matip, 32, will go down as one of the greatest free agent signings in Premier League history when his stint in England concludes. But given the veteran centre-half is out of contract in the summer and will be coming off major knee surgery, he may have already played his final match for the club.

As yet, there’s been little indication Liverpool will sanction a new deal for Matip. Jurgen Klopp has publicly called on owners FSG to “do the right thing” and offer Matip an extension. But with Klopp leaving, FSG are under no pressure to meet the German’s demand.

Who ever succeeds Klopp as manager will already have four senior centre-halves at their disposal even if Matip does leave.

Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate are the starters, while depth is provided by Joe Gomez and Jarell Quansah.

However, Konate has proven frustratingly injury prone in his Liverpool career so far and Van Dijk, now aged 32, won’t remain an elite performer forever. What’s more, Gomez has often been tasked with covering both full-back positions.

As such, a replacement for Matip does look needed if he is to depart as a free agent. But rather than dip into the market, the statistics suggest the answer is already on the club’s books.

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Liverpool loanee enjoying outrageous season

Comparisonator – an AI-assisted football data platform – have collated the figures for every centre-half playing in the top five leagues in Europe this season. That includes the Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1.

Taking to X, Comparisonator listed the top five centre-backs in order of their average score this term and coming in fifth was Liverpool loanee, Sepp Van den Berg.

The Dutchman, 22, is currently loaned to German side Mainz and by all accounts, is excelling.

Van den Berg has made just four appearances for Liverpool since arriving from Dutch outfit PEC Zwolle back in 2019. However, if the comments of Mainz boss Bo Henriksen are anything to go by, Van den Berg is making the most of his chance in Germany.

In quotes carried by the Liverpool Echo, Henriksen said of Van den Berg: “He is a leader and the boss in the middle. He’s getting better and better.”

Van den Berg wants game-time assurances

Van den Berg is under contract with Liverpool until the summer of 2026. But when speaking to Voetbal Nieuws earlier this season, the centre-half revealed he would be open to leaving Liverpool if there’s no pathway to regular minutes.

“If I go back to Liverpool, they might want me to stay. If I see that I won’t get much game time, then I might choose to leave. It’s really important to me that I play.

“In previous years, I didn’t feel like I would be starting next to Virgil. I don’t know yet what my chances will be like next summer.

“I think I’m doing well. I can handle playing at Liverpool. I can compete. But being a starter is different. Virgil and Konate are not easy to beat. I know it will be hard.”

But with Matip potentially set to leave, Van den Berg may yet get the chance he craves next season.

Van Dijk vs Saliba

You won’t be surprised to learn Van Dijk and Arsenal ace Saliba also made Comparisonator’s ranking of the top 5 centre-halves in Europe this season.

Both players have been at the top of their game throughout the campaign and the debate over who is having the better season has raged.

But per Comparisonator, there is a clear winner and his name is Virgil van Dijk…

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