Transfer to Liverpool overshadowed by Matthijs De Ligt could take time to pay


Sepp van den Berg has always been well placed to learn from adults.

As a teenager making his way into senior football with PEC Zwolle last season, Van den Berg got his taste for Eredivisie football from none other than Jaap Stam.

A central defender who won the Champions League with legendary status in his homeland, Stam was the perfect man for Van den Berg to listen and learn as he progressed through the training stages of his own career last season.

The fact that a triple Premier League winner saw fit to entrust senior playing time to a 17-year-old central defender showed just how much Van den Berg was in Stam’s eyes.

And if Stam could see Van den Berg’s talent, then few could argue the opposite.

After nearly a dozen appearances in the Dutch elite, Van den Berg caught the eye of Liverpool who rushed to conclude a £ 1.3 million deal last summer.

Chief scout Barry Hunter and recruiting manager Dave Fallows helped ensure the Reds were at the head of the pack over Bayern Munich and Ajax.

With the reputation of forging the career of a successful young Dutchman, it could have been easy for Van den Berg to accept the openings from the iconic Ajax.

And that was the keen interest in Van den Berg. the Reds even had to push Bayern away when they called him directly while he was sitting on the physio table at Melwood.

Club insiders saw their new recruit at a level similar to that of Joe Gomez when the Reds paid Charlton £ 3.5 million to claim the U19 title in England in the summer of 2015.

If playing under Stam was perfect for a burgeoning Dutch central defender, the chance to train alongside Virgil van Dijk was perhaps even more attractive.

Widely regarded as the best central defender in the world, Dutch captain Van Dijk is the ideal player for any defender who is learning his trade.

“I can learn the most from Van Dijk,” said Van den Berg. “So if he gives me advice, I will record it.

“If I make a mistake like not stepping up, etc. Things like that. Things you should know.

“For me, he’s the best defender in the world right now, so I can learn a lot from him. “

Settling in Merseyside with his father, Van den Berg was already fluent in English and it was believed that his compatriots Gini Wijnaldum, Van Dijk, Ki-Jana Hoever and goalkeeper trainer John Actherberg had made the adjustment easier. last summer.

In a summer dominated by the movements of another young Dutch central defender to Matthijs de Ligt, it seemed like Van den Berg had made the ideal choice when settling down in life with the recently crowned European champions.

Indeed, while the man the fans are clamoring for joining Juventus from Ajax for just under £ 68m, Liverpool has paid a price split for another highly rated Dutchman and this is almost gone unnoticed on the continent. Not that Van den Berg would have it otherwise.

“Sepp goes about his job very quietly, but he has confidence in the way he plays the game,” former 23-year-old boss Neil Critchley told ECHO at the time.

A total of four first-team appearances have hinted that a bright future could await Van den Berg, but the central defender is currently a crowded area with Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren waiting behind the scenes behind Gomez and Van Dijk.

Van den Berg will not be 19 before December, however, and central defenders are rarely regulars on the first team in their teens. He has plenty of time and is less than a year away from a long-term contract at Anfield.

As for the results, this was a mixed bag for the central left half.

A Liverpool debut arrived in September as the Reds beat MK Dons 2-0 in the Carabao Cup. Aligning alongside Lovren at Stadium MK, Van den Berg was calm and confident with James Milner guiding him through as a makeshift left back.

Van den Berg’s debut at Anfield saw him play his part in a team that conceded five – while winning the match.

The 5-5 draw with Arsenal in the Carabao Cup was one of the craziest games that Liverpool fans have been treated to – or subjected to – for many years with Van den Berg in the back alongside Gomez .

After Divock Origi’s final leveler, he was left with penalties for Jurgen Klopp’s team to book their next round.

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However, nothing could be done to avoid the end of the line in this competition, as the youngest Liverpool team in history was beaten 5-0 at Aston Villa in December while Klopp seniors watched over Qatar.

If it was the nadir of Van den Berg’s season at Villa Park on December 17, the peak came in February in the FA Cup when another Academy team took the field to meet Shrewsbury at Anfield.

A sold out crowd gathered for the fourth round draw as Ro-Shaun Williams’ own goal settled for the draw for Critchley’s colts.

“We were proud of how we lived it together,” he said. “You talk about it with each other. That we all want to join Liverpool’s first team for sure. “

After playing under Stam and learning from Van Dijk, Van den Berg is already well on his way to becoming a great Dutch central defender in his own right.


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