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Arne Slot will be given final say on $26m Liverpool ace after preseason

Mathys Tel of FC Bayern München (L) and Sepp van den Berg of 1. FSV Mainz 05 compete for the ball during the Bundesliga match between 1. FSV Mainz 05 and FC Bayern München at MEWA Arena on October 21, 2023 in Mainz, Germany.
-Credit: (Image: Ralf Ibing - firo sportphoto/Getty Images)


Liverpool will run the rule over returning loan player Sepp van den Berg during pre-season. New manager Arne Slot will ultimately make the call over his future.

Van den Berg enjoyed a strong campaign in the Bundesliga. Having missed most of the previous season with Schalke due to injury, he made the temporary switch to Mainz, and helped secure safety for Jürgen Klopp's old club with a goal on the final day.

More pertinently, he impressed in a defensive sense too. And Slot is now set to hand his compatriot a chance to earn a role within the Liverpool squad, following the departure of Joël Matip on a free transfer.

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Signed during the first Michael Edwards era in the summer after Liverpool had won the Champions League, Van den Berg arrived from PEC Zwolle (a former club of Slot's, incidentally) with a burgeoning reputation. He made his debut under Klopp, but has spent most of the intervening years on various loans.

But with Edwards now back in the fold as CEO of football for FSG, his old signing could still come good. At the very least, Liverpool expects to profit.

According to The Athletic, the Reds value Van den Berg at $26m (£20m/€24m). Clubs 'across Europe' are said to be showing interest, but Liverpool is likely to delay any decision until Slot has had a chance to watch the center-back.

Still just 22, the Dutch defender has years ahead of him to improve. But he already ranked among the best defenders around in certain key metrics last season, winning the second-most aerial duels in the Bundesliga and placing in the top 10 for his duel success rate. His aerial prowess also saw him post a higher-than-average goal threat.

Slot will be looking to see how Van den Berg's qualities translate into a possession-oriented team expected to dominate most fixtures. His passing figures at Mainz were naturally underwhelming, and Liverpool will need to see evidence that he has that side to his game.

But pre-season will offer the perfect forum to assess that. If Van den Berg is deemed surplus to requirements, then Brentford, Southampton and Wolfsburg are among the credible suitors — but he could yet be this season's Jarell Quansah, with Liverpool's need for an extra body in defense clear.

Liverpool.com says: Slot's call on Van den Berg will be fascinating. Under Klopp, aerial duel prowess was perhaps the single most important quality in a defender, and the strides the youngster has made in that department may well have seen him come under serious consideration.

But ball-playing ability will remain at least as important as ever under Slot. That looks to be the key to Van den Berg earning a shot at Liverpool, and it promises to be one of the more intriguing elements of pre-season.