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Fabinho & Liverpool: Why this deal proves Van Dijk 'jealous' blast was right

COMMENT: Less than 48 hours. Barely two days. That was all Liverpool needed to improve on what took them all the way to Kiev.

Out goes the German and in comes a Brazilian. Emre Can for Fabinho. A surefire upgrade. This is how a proper football club acts. A football club that apparently should be licking their wounds this week. From the calamities of Karius. To Klopp's drunken sing-song. Apparently it's all fallen apart for Liverpool. For some, what should have been the club's best week in years is turning into one of the most embarrassing. Problem is, Liverpool didn't get the memo.

Virgil van Dijk nailed it. In the aftermath of defeat to Real Madrid, the Dutchman had some choice words for Liverpool's rivals: "I know a lot of the Premier League will now be laughing at us, but they're just jealous. We will come back better next season."

Next season, Virgil? What about next week? Liverpool have drawn a line in the sand with this Fabinho deal. AS Monaco had already accepted a €35m bid from Atletico Madrid. Arsenal, on recommendation of Unai Emery, made contact on Saturday. So what did Liverpool do? No dithering. No haggling. They acted like a proper football club. Like a major European power.

€35m from Atletico? Then how about €45m? Oh, and to get it done for Monday, let's add an extra €5m in bonuses. The response from Atletico was silence. It was pretty much the same from Arsenal. Liverpool, in the space of 24 hours of negotiations, had their man.

Hinting at the Atletico offer, Fabinho told French radio last night: "I had two choices. Real choices, not just interest. I do not want to talk about other clubs. It's done, I'm a Liverpool player."

As he revealed last night, Fabinho had been speaking with Jurgen Klopp "for a few weeks".

"The contacts, it's been a few weeks. I spoke with people from the club, with the coach (Klopp), which gave me a lot of confidence. I wanted to go to a club that really wanted me, which showed great interest. With all that, it was easy to say yes," said the Brazilian.

So a "few weeks". At least fortnight. Yet, not a peep from anyone connected to the negotiations. As impressive as the speed of settling the fee was on the weekend, it also says much about today's Liverpool that nothing was leaked about interest in Fabinho. Not even a hint escaped from Melwood in the lead up. Contrast that to Juventus and Can... well you can't, the difference between how negotiations have been handled is just ridiculous.

On the talent ledger, Liverpool come out on top. For many in France, Fabinho was the outstanding player in Monaco's title winning campaign of a year ago. Better than Tiemoue Bakayoko. Better than Bernardo Silva. Even more influential than Kylian Mbappe. Fabinho made everything tick.

"In my opinion, he is the best for his position in Europe," insists Marcel Dib, the former Marseille and Monaco midfielder.

"He is the star of Monaco.

"Everyone revolves around him. He has an incredible power on the game, and on his teammates. And then technically and physically, he is a class above."

Eric Roy, the former Sunderland striker and Nice sports director, spoke of Fabinho's importance in the aftermath of that 2016/17 season.

"When he's not there, of course it makes a big difference," he said.

"In Monaco, there are sometimes four attackers at the same time. So they need someone to cover a lot of ground. As soon as he misses, the team becomes a bit wobbly."

Four attackers? At the same time? Remind you of anyone...?

Fabinho will fit seamlessly into Klopp's high-octane system. A ball-winner. A player capable of turning defence into attack in an instance. One to protect the back four, but with the engine to support his strikers when needed. The ideal defensive midfielder for Liverpool's gegenpresse.

Just listen to Nice football chief Frédéric Brando: "His greatest quality is his ability to make the transition. He allows his team to quickly project forward. It's extremely rare, so the interest of the biggest European clubs for him is no surprise."

And the Monday announcement? That can't be sheer coincidence. This was a canny move by the Reds. A nice deflection to ease the spotlight on Loris Karius. You really couldn't see Liverpool hurrying through the same deal if Jordan Henderson had lifted the Champions League trophy on Saturday.

Again, these are the actions of a management team at the top of their game. The first significant signing of the summer goes to the Champions League finalists - and was achieved as Kiev was being played out.

Is it any wonder Van Dijk was so defiant at the final whistle? Liverpool are back.


Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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