Liverpool are poised to win the race to sign Virgil van Dijk after being informed by the Southampton defender that Anfield is his preferred destination.
Jürgen Klopp made the Holland international a transfer priority having guided Liverpool into the Champions League play-offs but faced competition from the Premier League champions, Chelsea, and Manchester City for the 25-year-old.
In what represents a major statement of intent from Liverpool and a breakthrough for Klopp, the centre-back has told his suitors and Southampton that he favours a move to Merseyside.
Liverpool have yet to agree a fee with Southampton, whose willingness to sell Van Dijk, who has five years remaining on his contract, is by no means a foregone conclusion.
Their chairman, Ralph Krueger, executive director, Les Reed, and the manager, Claude Puel, have stated in recent months that the club’s prized asset is not for sale.
However, Liverpool are willing to pay a world-record sum for a defender – expected to be around £60m – to break that resolve and ensure Van Dijk becomes the latest Southampton employee to depart for Anfield.
They are also prepared to match City’s offer of a contract worth around £200,000 a week for the former Celtic and Groningen player, who will become Liverpool’s record signing and highest‑paid player should the deal proceed.
Liverpool would regard Van Dijk’s arrival as significant given the interest from Chelsea and Pep Guardiola’s club.
Arsenal were also understood to be keen. Van Dijk’s decision comes as a serious disappointment to Chelsea, who had targeted him for the left of Antonio Conte’s back three.
Talks with the player and his club are set to take place in the coming days, with Chelsea and City unlikely to rival Liverpool’s offer, and thus spark an auction that would drive up the fee for Southampton, having been made aware of his wishes.
Van Dijk, who was also wanted at Everton by his former Southampton manager Ronald Koeman, has excelled in the Premier League since arriving from Celtic for £13m in 2015.
He missed the second half of last season with an ankle ligament injury but Klopp believes his defensive authority and quality in possession will improve Liverpool’s rearguard.
The Liverpool manager is believed to be a factor in Van Dijk’s decision with qualification for the Champions League – providing the play-off in August is successfully navigated – also crucial in swaying the defender towards Merseyside.
Klopp believes Liverpool can challenge for next season’s Premier League title with a few important additions.
He told the club’s website on Monday: “I’m really optimistic for our future, not because I’m crazy but only because I know what we have, I know what we will get, I know what we can get, and I know that we really have a super bunch of people – knowledge, character – not just the players, all around.”
Liverpool also hope to sign the former Chelsea winger Mohamed Salah this summer but have yet to agree a fee with Roma, the Egypt international’s club, who are seeking around £35m.
Anfield officials held talks with their Roma counterparts last week but, while Salah is keen on a return to the Premier League, they have so far been unable to finalise terms with the club.