You could write a book or even a film about this – oh wait they did in 1953. A comedy no less called the ‘The Great Game’ starring Thora Hird, Diana Dors, and a cameo role for Tommy Lawton, who made 87 appearances for Everton scoring 65 goals!
The film portrays a chairman of a top-flight English football club who makes an illegal approach to a rising star of a rival club. This being discovered by the football authorities, with the Chairman ultimately suspended from the game following the scandal.
Fast forward 64 years and you have another Merseyside club trying again, attempting to lure Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton without first contacting the club.
It’s not the first time Liverpool have been in deep water over ‘tapping up’ allegations. Liverpool were facing legal action from a schoolboy footballer earlier this year after being banned from signing academy players for at least a year and fined £100,000 for tapping him up and offering him and his family forbidden inducements. The Premier League punished Liverpool after they admitted making an illegal approach to the youngster.
It seems they haven’t learnt!
Yesterday they released a statement apologising for the approach, directly to Southampton’s board in what can only be assumed a damage limitation exercise.
Southampton having already registered a complaint with the Premier League, will want to see some sort of action, whilst Liverpool will be hoping that the Premier League see that the two sides have communicated and settled their differences. I am doubting the latter will happen given Liverpool’s history with Southampton players and their previous conduct.
In the 1953 film the chairman is suspended from any football activities. In today’s game I expect Southampton will want to see some sort of ban. If this does indeed happen, Klopp is going to rue all those private text messages with Van Dijk and see his transfer window disappear in a vapour cloud, and he will have to try to achieve the impossible with the same squad.
Chelsea will be wanting some retribution for their ban in 2009 for signing Kakuta from Lens. Whilst they completed the transfer, its hard to see that Liverpool would have refrained from signing Van Dijk if they had not been found out!
“Chelsea are banned from registering any new players, either nationally or internationally, for the next two entire and consecutive registration periods,”
The player was also banned for 4 months. Previously they were fined £300,000 for ‘tapping up’ Ashley Cole from Arsenal, so their previous landed them with a two year transfer ban. Its hard to imagine that Liverpool can hope to escape any sort of retribution from the powers that be, given they have already been warned and dealt with earlier this year!
With the owner John Henry having to step in recognising the seriousness of it all, one has to have a deep look at some of the staff responsible for new players at the club. Maybe a cabinet shuffle is in the offing, I mean they couldn’t have timed that more perfectly as newsworthy.
With the interest severed for Van Dijk, Southampton must have had a split second ‘sigh of relief’ before the gates will have opened for proper tabled bids from the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City. With valuations in the region of £50m – £75m, Van Dijk will need to consider his future carefully. He is the Captain of his club on a 5 year contract. He is potentially facing a new manager with the likes of Tuchel in the frame, who plays his style of football. Does he stay for another year, see where it all goes, and then leap across the water to Real or Barcelona for £100m, or jump into bed with a club that was not his list?
Whatever happens Southampton have to be applauded for saying ‘enough is enough’ and standing firm. They were becoming the laughing-stock on Merseyside for the mass selling of their players and now the boot is on the other foot, and Klopp must now be pulling at his shirt collar waiting for a response from the powers that be as to their future in the transfer market.