Jurgen Klopp has suggested Southampton fans may be thankful for the fee they received for Virgil van Dijk, but Liverpool’s manager knows the player might be in for a hostile reception on his return to St Mary’s Stadium.
Netherlands centre-back Van Dijk is set to be reunited with his former employers for the first time since making a lucrative £75million move to Anfield last month.
The transfer continued a trend of players swapping Southampton for Liverpool, with the likes of Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne and Sadio Mane among those to have left the south coast for Merseyside.
Van Dijk’s time at Southampton soured towards the end, with the former Celtic defender making little secret of his desire to leave.
Reds boss Klopp acknowledged Van Dijk could be in for a tough outing, but says Liverpool must focus on the task at hand.
“I don’t know exactly [what sort of reaction he will get], probably not the most friendly, I’m not sure,” he told a news conference.
“They were always really nice with Clyney, Lallana obviously they missed the most, [they had] Lovren, Mane was okay.
“Virgil was the last one, we understand it, it’s not something we think about, maybe it will be normal in the future.
“We have to go there and play football, I don’t think anyone at Southampton will say we have stolen him or something. It was a very public deal, the numbers even when never 100 per cent right, are okay, maybe they are thankful, happy for all the money they have now.”
Klopp, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, added: “There are a few more players [in the Premier League that played for Southampton]. Ox [Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain] is from there as well, even though he took a different route. Theo Walcott as well, a few good players from there – maybe we should have a scouting department in Southampton! It shows the good work they do there.”
The German does plan on talking to Van Dijk ahead of Sunday’s contest, and says the team have to accept any negative reactions from the stands.
“How football fans are, they want to disturb what we do. Is it nice? I don’t think so,” he said.
“Will it have influence? I don’t think so, we’ll see. We don’t make it too big, it’s quite special I know.
“We think about the football game, and not avoid situations. We have to accept it how it is, loud, not nice maybe, but we have to play football that’s it.”