Liverpool’s first signing of the summer has been announced with Dutch wonderkid Sepp van den Berg joining from PEC Zwolle.
Jurgen Klopp has beaten several other top European clubs to his signature knows he has a centre-back with plenty of potential coming into the club.
The 17-year-old made 15 appearances in the Eredivise last season for PEC Zwolle, who finished in a respectable 13th place.
Nicknamed Ed Sheeran by his team-mates thanks to his shock of red hair, he comes from sporting stock with his father playing tennis to a decent level and his mother playing volleyball for the Dutch youth team, while his sister plays hockey and his younger brother, Rav, is also a talented member of the Zwolle academy.
Below talkSPORT.com gives an in-depth insight into all you need to know about Van den Berg…
LATEST FOOTBALL STORIES
Sepp van den Berg - 2018/19
- Minutes played: 906
- Pass completion rate: 88.4%
- Tackles per game: 1.3
- Clearances per game: 2.7
- Passes per game: 36.2
- Interceptions per game: 0.8
Could Van den Berg be the next Joe Gomez?
Klopp’s goal is to repeat the success story of Joe Gomez, who played a major role in Liverpool’s success during last year’s campaign.
The young Englishman signed for the Reds in 2015, for a fee £3.5million but it was not until the 2017/18 season that the 22-year-old’s career really took off.
Were it not for a succession of injuries, Gomez could already be one of the Premier League’s best centre-backs; his partnership with player of the season Virgil van Dijk was one that excited Liverpool fans.
The Van Dijk and Gomez combination in defence conceded only six goals in 1,373 minutes of football – a record that brings them close to that of the best ever defensive partnership in Premier League history, according to statistics – Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger.
Reds fans will hope history will repeat itself with the signing of Van den Berg, who would be a welcome addition to the already proven backline that kept an impressive 21 clean sheets in the Premier League last time out.
Career so far?
In early 2018, the teenager was named Zwolle’s youth player of the month for December and a professional contract was offered to him in February.
Zwolle technical director Gerard Nijkamp committed to a ‘step-by-step plan’ set up to ‘connect the player to the club so he can develop further’.
The defender’s debut came in a defeat against FC Groningen in March and he went on to start five of the final seven games of the season.
In September, Van den Berg broke the record previously held by Clarence Seedorf to become the youngest player to play at least ten games in the Eredivise.
In the following season the 17-year-old’s first team opportunities dried up considerably with the appointment of Jaap Stam as manager, but the composed centre-back still managed to record Zwolle’s second highest pass completion rate of 88.4%.
Football writers from the Netherlands have marked out the youngster’s pace as defining feature of his game.
Once a winger, the now centre-half has the unique ability to make defensive recovery challenges due to his lightning pace.
The youngster readily admits he’s not the finished article, and he’s currently on a nutritional plan to try and help him bulk up a little, which he conceded meant his mother was doing a little more cooking than usual.
Team-mate Dirk Marcellis said of Van den Berg: “What I have known is a smart player, who knows how to read situations in advance, as well as being very fast. He is an already reliable defender, with great consistency of performance.”
Meanwhile, fellow Dutch wonderkid Matthijs de Ligt has offered advice to Van den Berg, saying: “I think Sepp is a great talent and I hope he continues to grow.
“The advice I can give him is to keep his feet on the ground and surround himself with the right people.”
What’s the gossip?
Despite claims from the Daily Telegraph that the Anfield club ‘have won the race’ to sign Van den Berg for a reported £1.79million, the next few days will prove to be interesting as Liverpool face competition from Ajax, Bayern Munich and PSV Eindhoven.
A move to Italian club Sampdoria fell through during the January transfer window, but, with just a year left of his contract, Zwolle will look to offload the centre-back by the end of this week.
How could he fit into the Liverpool line-up?
If the teenager does become Liverpool’s first signing of the transfer window, Klopp will look to nurture the young defender and integrate him slowly into the first team setup at Anfield, just like he did with Gomez.
Should he seek to slip Van den Berg into his first XI immediately, however, the Reds could move to a three-at-the-back system with the starlet’s pace allowing Van Dijk and Gomez to play the ball out further up the pitch.
We could also see the wing-backs getting higher up the pitch, allowing Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah to play narrower and closer to goal, which could really crank up the pressure on teams who attempt to defend deep against the Reds.