Virgil van Dijk is January's biggest commodity at center back

BY Aaron West • December 14, 2016

Like it or not, January approaches. With it brings frigid temperatures for some, a new year for everyone and the opportunity for a number of clubs to bolster their ranks with the opening of the transfer window. When that window blasts open, any team that needs strengthening at center-back should (and will be) looking at Virgil van Dijk.

Van Dijk arrived in England from Celtic for £13 million in the summer of 2015. He immediately established himself as one of the Premier League's most formidable center-halves, forming a rock-solid partnership with Jose Fonte at the heart of Southampton's defense. The Dutchman is perfectly suited to England's rough-and-tumble and frantic play, standing 6 feet 4 inches with the bulk to match his height. He isn't just some clumsy brute though; the cultured 25-year-old reads the game better than just about any other defender in the league, and he's one of the best ball-playing center-backs on display as well.

Southampton just went out of Europa League at the hands of Hapoel Be'er Sheva, but it wasn't for the lack of effort and quality on van Dijk's part. He was the same consistent leader and reader of the game he's proved himself to be since he pulled on a Southampton shirt. He even scored the equalizer to give the Saints a chance to progress to the next round, but it just wasn't enough. Now, with them out of Europe and middle of the table in England, it could signal the end of his time with the club.

There is no shortage of suitors for him. Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City all need quality center-backs, and that probably won't be the end of the interest. His ability's been making waves all across Europe.

These days, young, talented center-backs who can pass the ball are in high demand, and he is, and should be, right at the top of the list of must-have players. Southampton have their own ambitions, though, and manager Claude Puel has already moved to squash any rumors. Fortunately for Southampton, van Dijk just signed a long-term contract, so he won't come cheap — if they entertain bids at all. They don't need to sell, and he's made no public overtures to leave the Saint Mary's Stadium.

If he continues to play like he has in a Southampton shirt, van Dijk would make any team in Europe better. He's suited for any style of play, whether it's the physical battle of the Premier League or the more measured approach typical of the continent. Simply put, he's a perfect signing at the back. Southampton will want to hold onto him, but the appeal of multiple millions may prove too irresistible for the club to deny.

Van Dijk will be a vitally important piece to whatever team he's playing for when the January transfer window slams shut. It remains to be seen if that will be at Southampton, or in a different shirt.

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