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Why This £15m Defender Could Be The Perfect Replacement For van Dijk At Southampton

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Wesley Hoedt

Why Wesley Hoedt Could Be The Perfect Replacement For Virgil van Dijk At Southampton

The Virgil van Dijk saga has been going on all through the summer. Liverpool approached the player and were rebuffed, which prompted the player to hand in a transfer request in order to force through a move away from Southampton.

While the Saints have been insistent that they will not consider a sale, Liverpool along with Chelsea circle around to sign the Dutch international. This has left new boss Mauricio Pellegrino to look for replacements as preparation for the eventuality, and the Argentine has seemed to narrow down his search on Lazio’s Wesley Hoedt.

According to Tutto Mercato Web, the South Coast club are set to sign the 23-year old defender for £15million, after the Dutchman waved goodbye to his Lazio teammates ahead of the move.

The centre-back is a product of the AZ Alkmaar academy and moved to Lazio back in the summer of 2015. After a slow start to life in Italy, he has grown into one of the most promising talents in the Serie A over the past year. Last season, Hoedt appeared 23 times in the Serie A for the Biancocelesti, scoring twice, and featured in three Coppa Italia games as well, in which he found the back of the net on one occasion.

Southampton used Maya Yoshida and Jack Stephens as the first-choice centre-back pairing during Van Dijk’s absence last season, and have continued with the same combination this campaign, with summer signing Jan Bednarek acting as the backup. However, a natural left-sided centre-half who can completely fill Van Dijk’s shoes has been lacking for the Saints and Hoedt could be the perfect man to do that.

Virgil Van Dijk
Virgil Van Dijk

The 23-year old Dutchman averaged 1.3 tackles and interceptions per game last season in the Serie A, a shade lesser than his compatriot. Hoedt relies on his strong positioning to deflect attacks rather than going into tackles, is strong in the air, and is a disciplined defender as well. But the strongest feature of his game, much like the man he would be replacing, is his ability to play out from the back.

Last season, in his 23 Serie A appearances, Hoedt averaged 52.6 passes per game at a supreme accuracy of 87.2%, compared to 46.7 passes per game at 84.2% accuracy by Van Dijk in 21 Premier League games. Hoedt also attempted 6.9 long passes per game last season, compared to 4.6 by the Southampton want-away, highlighting that he fits the bill perfectly.

Hoedt is someone who can dictate play from the back and is composed on the ball, along with possessing the necessary defensive traits as well. It isn’t hard to see that he is cut from the same cloth as his compatriot. Add to that, the Dutchman can also play as a left-back as well, making him a more attractive prospect. At 23 years of age, he is three years younger than Van Dijk and has all the attributes to be a huge success for Southampton. At just £15million, he could prove to be quite a steal for the Saints.