Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk helped convince his Netherlands team-mate Cody Gakpo to make the winter switch to Anfield, it has been revealed.
The Reds hijacked Manchester United’s pursuit of the Dutch attacker last night, with Jurgen Klopp’s side reaching an agreement with PSV Eindhoven for a sum of £44m.
It has been claimed that a phone call between the Dutch pair was key in Gakpo’s last-minute decision to head for Merseyside instead of Manchester.
According to Eindhoven’s Dagblad, Van Dijk rang Gakpo on Boxing Day following their 3-1 victory over Aston Villa, amid rising interest in the 23-year-old’s signature.
Now, it seems that the conversation was key in Liverpool getting a deal over the line.
United have been the favourites to sign the Dutchman since the summer, with Erik ten Hag holding the advantage due to him sharing the same agent as Gakpo.
The Red Devils had reportedly begun talks with PSV, but they were still yet to agree on a transfer fee and now have missed out on yet another big target.
There have also been a host of other top European clubs looking to secure Gakpo’s services, such as Barcelona, Newcastle and Arsenal. But now, Liverpool have beaten them all in a shock twist.
As noted by the Daily Mail, Van Dijk called for quality reinforcements for the Reds in a post match interview yesterday, shortly before making the key phone call.
He said: “Hopefully the injured players can come back soon, and hopefully we can welcome some new players at our football club.
“We will see. I think that quality is always welcome at Liverpool.”
As mentioned by the defender, Liverpool are currently dealing with injuries to key players such as Roberto Firmino, Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz, so attacking reinforcements were definitely required.
Gakpo well and truly fits the ‘quality’ description, after dazzling for both his club and country of late.
In 23 appearances across all competitions for PSV this season, the winger has contributed 13 goals and 17 assists already, numbers that Mohamed Salah would be proud of.
In the World Cup, Gakpo was arguably the Netherlands’ star man, scoring three goals in six games as Het Oranjes reached the quarter-finals.
His tournament in Qatar only added to the growing interest, with PSV manager Ruud van Nistelrooy admitting last week that “there comes a time when you can’t say no.”
Now, it seems that time has come thanks to Van Dijk, who seems to have dealt the final hammer blow to United’s hopes of signing Gakpo.
Marcus Rashford has been United’s most reliable attacking option this season, scoring four goals and making two assists in 14 league appearances so far.
However, the likes of Anthony Martial, Jadon Sancho, Antony and Anthony Elanga have all struggled to find form this season, so the Dutch coach will need more quality goal scorers at his disposal if United want to continue their push for the top four.
Now, however, they will have to look elsewhere.