Last Thursday, UCL winners Liverpool completed the signing of Dutch centre-back Sepp van den Berg in a £1.3m deal which could rise to a potential £4.4m depending on add-ons based on first-team appearances.
The 6ft 2in 17-year-old made 15 appearances for PEC Zwolle last season, 5 of which came from the bench. His debut for the club was one to forget as the team went down 2-0 to Groningen in March 2018. The Reds fought off a host of competitors in the form of Sampdoria and Ajax, both of whom were interested in acquiring his services.
Bayern, and PSV are also teams who have tried to snap up the youngster, but Liverpool prevailed. Sepp would be joining a host of Dutch players at Liverpool in Virgil van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum at first-team level and KI-Jana Hoever at the youth level.
He is an incredible signing at £1.3m and it is said that the teenager will be thrown straight into the first-team fold at Anfield and will report for duty at Melwood as the Reds return for pre-season on Saturday, July 6.
Sepp has featured in three of six Netherlands’ 2019 UEFA European Under-19 Championship campaign. He grabbed a goal against Wales in the stoppage time of their encounter which granted the Dutch boys a place in the elite round against Spain.
They were then outclassed by the Spaniards with Alejandro Marques scoring the only goal of the game at the 90th minute. How he could significantly improve the team The U19 international who was one of only 10 teenage centre-backs to have played 750 minutes or more in the Eredivisie and across Europe’s Top 5 leagues is now Liverpool’s first signing of the summer. Let’s see what attracted the scouts to Sepp.
His 6’2 build gives him a massive advantage over stronger and older opponents in the air and has an aerial duel success rate of 50%. Although being a teenager he possesses intelligence beyond his years and has the ability to read the game in general and sniff out danger.
A testament to that is the fact that he averaged 7 interceptions per 90 minutes last season. An attribute that made him come up on Jurgen Klopp’s radar is his impressive ability on the ball. He averages just below 50 passes per 90 minutes with a very impressive success rate of 90%.
For comparison, out of Liverpool’s current centre-backs, only Van Dijk can better that success rate with an average of 92.36%. He can also boast a long pass success rate of 57.5% which betters any current Liverpool centre-back.
That’s a huge plus to the Liverpool side who have used Virgil van Dijk’s pinpoint passes to dissect deep defensive blocks from the left side of the defence to the right side of the attack into the path of Mohammed Salah or Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Despite all that has been said, it is important to take into account the fact that data isn’t the entirety of a defenders game. Qualities can’t be easily shown in numbers given that there are assorted factors that impact a defender’s role at a club.
The case could be presented for all positions across the pitch, though the point seems most relevant when assessing defenders. Van den Berg’s personality is also a major attribute to a player who already has so many positives on the pitch. It would be interesting to see how he’d develop at Anfield over the course of the next seasons.