Liverpool have overcome the defensive crisis of the 2020-21 campaign and are currently stacked in the heart of the backline with Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip, Ibrahima Konate and Joe Gomez. Nathaniel Phillips was retained as well beyond the summer window due to Konate’s injury problem, but the club decided to loan out Sepp van den Berg who flourished last season at Preston North End.
Despite talks with Burnley, the Dutchman decided not to return to the Championship. Schalke’s offer was too difficult to turn down as he is now featuring week in week out alongside Maya Yoshida.
“To be honest, I already knew during pre-season that I would be loaned out. The chance of playing time at Liverpool is of course small. It was nice that I was on the bench for four more games in the Premier League this season. But I learn the most when I play.
Van den Berg told ELF Voetbal (as quoted by Lancs Live). He also highlighted the experience as well as physical growth gained during the Lilywhites tenure and the youngster is now desperate to make the opportunities count in Bundesliga.
The 20-year-old Netherlands youth international progressed through the academy ranks of CSV ’28 and PEC Zwolle before breaking into the latter’s senior squad at the age of 16. He went on to appear 23 times in the Eredivisie before plying his trade at Liverpool for a fee in the region of £1.3m (which could potentially rise to £4.4m if all the add-ons and clauses get triggered).
In spite of four Cup appearances, the Dutch prodigy mostly featured for the Reds’ reserves. But the approach from the Lancashire side proved to be crucial in terms of shaping up his senior career. There he played regularly in the defensive third and also exhibited his versatility as a right fullback, wingback and the right-sided centre-back of Preston’s three-man defence.
Does He Have A Future At Liverpool?
Having said that, it won’t be easy to secure a first-team role for the Merseysiders. Matip and Konate should be rotated alongside Van Dijk, whereas Gomez is expected to continue as the fourth-choice centre-half apart from being the understudy to Trent Alexander-Arnold down the right. Jurgen Klopp might bank on him though as a sporadic option, particularly with Phillips’ future up in the air.
The Englishman is already 25 but has only played 65 games so far at the senior level. He needs to move on for regular gametime and the gaffer must also assess Rhys Williams who delivered some steady performances at the backend of the 2020-21 season. Williams has joined Blackpool on a season-long loan and it remains to be seen who impresses the most between these two budding talents.