A look at who will partner Virgil van Dijk next season

A look at who will partner Virgil van Dijk next season

With the 2022-23 campaign on the horizon, I have decided to take a look at who will partner Virgil van Dijk at the heart of Liverpool's defence next season.

It is worth noting that all the names below will get a chance to represent the Reds across the next 10 months. The reality is, Liverpool play in the Premier League, Champions League, League Cup and FA Cup.

So, squad rotation is necessary, which means players do get opportunities. But, I want to identify which centre-back is going to be alongside Van Dijk on a consistent basis.

Joel Matip

Matip was Jurgen Klopp's second-choice centre-back for the majority of last season, and it's not hard to see why.

The 30-year-old averaged a WhoScored player rating of 7.35 across 31 Premier League matches last campaign.

Therefore, Matip has received plenty of praise from former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher in recent times.

“He’s been fantastic,” he told Sky Sports earlier this year (00:55).

“He’s been as good as Virgil van Dijk this season, he’s been outstanding, he really has. I think Matip this season, his ability to come out with the ball as well, the defensive record alongside Virgil van Dijk is outstanding.”

However, Matip was dropped for Ibrahima Konate for the Champions League final against Real Madrid.

With that being the case, it would be fair to assume that Matip's place in the starting XI could be up for grabs heading into the 2022-23 campaign.

Ibrahima Konate

Liverpool signed Konate from RB Leipzig for a transfer fee of £36 million ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

When given an opportunity by Klopp (29 appearances) last season, the Frenchman performed quite well. Konate didn't look out of place, which is a key reason why he started against Real Madrid in the European Cup final.

Teammate Trent Alexander-Arnold was delighted with how the 23-year-old performed on the big stage.

“Outstanding, the performance he put in yesterday (during the Champions League final), I’m lost for words to be honest,” he told LFCTV GO.

“I honestly can’t say anything, words wouldn’t do justice to the way I felt about the performance yesterday. I don’t know why, but I felt proud of him, it’s the Champions League final!”

Alexander-Arnold added: “We’ve created a bond, we get along so well, he’s an amazing lad and an unbelievable player, the potential he has is ridiculous.

“So I’m very proud of him, I think the sky is the limit, there’s no ceiling on his potential. Hopefully we’ll win a lot of trophy’s together me and him.”

Because of Konate's age, there is no denying that he is the future of Liverpool's defence. Therefore, I do expect him to get plenty of opportunity next season to help fast-track his development.

Joe Gomez

We did not see much of Gomez last season. The England international only made 21 appearances for the Reds.

Despite that being the case, Gomez has recently signed a new-long term contract (expires 2027) with Liverpool.

Therefore, some guarantees regarding his playing time must have been included in his new deal. Otherwise, why would he extend his stay at Anfield?

In saying that, Gomez was behind both Matip and Konate last season. So, I don't expect to see the 25-year-old starting alongside Van Dijk in August.

Conclusion

I believe that Matip is still Klopp's second-choice centre-back. The 30-year-old hardly put a foot wrong last season.

Konate is clearly the future, but Matip is still at a decent age and playing well.

So, when the Reds face Fulham at Craven Cottage on the 6th of August to kickstart their Premier League campaign, I fully expect Matip to partner Van Dijk in the heart of Liverpool's defence.

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