Virgil van Dijk. The name on the lips of Liverpool fans all summer. Hailed as the Reds' defensive saviour. A man revered for his confidence, competence, ball disposal and the simple fact that he would be a serious upgrade on the current defensive options at Anfield.
Fast-forward four months and merely weeks before the January transfer window opens and the future of the Southampton defender is once again under scrutiny, but Liverpool desperately need it to lie with them.
A capitulation in the chase to sign the Dutch centre-back over the summer was a self-inflected shot to the foot that neither Liverpool or van Dijk needed. The 26-year-old has looked like a shell of his former self having being forced to stay at St Mary's this season, whilst Liverpool have been found defensively suspect away from home.
It is not to say van Dijk's arrival on Merseyside will eradicate any potential goal threat and clean sheets will come in abundance for the rest of the season, but much like a feared attacker coming off the bench his arrival would instantly instil confidence amongst the team and the fan base.
Morale in football is significantly undervalued and under-appreciated, and although Liverpool are now 11 games undefeated, van Dijk's arrival would ignite a fire within the fan base which could light fireplaces across the country for the rest of winter.
A gross exaggeration to some, but the 26-year-old is undoubtedly Liverpool's top defensive target and the fact they put all their eggs in one basket during the summer proves as much. Jurgen Klopp wants his man, and the club must deliver in January.
Southampton have been reported to have demanded a fee in the region of £70m for the defender, an extortionate amount for a central defender but it's a sign of the times and his proven ability in the Premier League ensures he would by no means be a gamble signing.
Acquiring a defender in his prime ahead of their domestic rivals would be an instant statement of intent, they could easily wait until the summer to approach Southampton but the time for the Reds to act is now if they are to enjoy any success this season as van Dijk would slot seamlessly into the Reds setup.
Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan. The three centre-backs Liverpool entered the season with, not taking the highly-rated Joe Gomez into consideration. Two of which consistently succumb to minor injuries, and the other is 32-years-old who is not capable of playing every three days in their absence - ultimately the Reds had a hand tied behind their back before they even kicked a ball this season.
Imagine what Liverpool could do in the Champions League this season if Van Dijk comes in this January!— View of the Kop (@ViewOfTheKop_) December 6, 2017
Now, Klopp has established a style of football which severely limits the oppositions chances on goal, but the feeling of being on tenterhooks remains deeply ingrained at the club. An inevitable feeling of doom which lurks in the shadows as mistakes in possession and individual errors continue to rear their ugly head - just ask Lovren, the Croatian has been at the centre of more individual errors than he would ever care to admit.
Although Klopp's system leaves his centre-backs vulnerable to counter-attacks the simple fact of the matter is the individuals within the system are not good enough. An issue which needs rectifying with the purchase of van Dijk if the club are to have any success in the Champions League, FA Cup and the Premier League this season.
The centre-backs presence will immediately add a sense of calm within the back-four as his assured and composed approach to the game will rub off on his teammates. As a result, the nervousness which creeps in as a set piece goes the way of the opposition will slowly dissipate in his presence as he boasts one of the league's highest aerial duel success rate.
Van Dijk simply has too many qualities Liverpool are crying out for to opt out of chasing the centre-back this January. The season will remain a case of 'what could've been' if they miss out once again.
A top four finish is non-negotiable and van Dijk will be key in securing the Reds place on the European top table for the second season running, for the first time since season/09 and 09/10.