Virgil van Dijk contract truth more complicated than update Liverpool wanted to hear

Virgil van Dijk captain of Liverpool during the warm-up before the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on May 05, 2024 in Liverpool, England.

Liverpool is on the brink of a new era. Jürgen Klopp has just two games left, and while supporters will want to savor every last remaining moment, the question of what comes next is looming ever larger.

Part of the answer appears to be Arne Slot. Official confirmation is still not forthcoming, but is expected — Liverpool has landed on the Feyenoord manager as the most appropriate replacement for Klopp.

Backroom changes have taken place already, with Michael Edwards returning to the FSG fold and appointing Richard Hughes as the new sporting director. When Slot does arrive, he will work as a 'head coach', leaning more heavily on the structure around him than his predecessor did.

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One question for that structure will be what to do with the raft of high-profile contracts that will soon be up for renewal. While it's anticipated that Thiago and Joël Matip will be allowed to leave on free transfers in the summer, there is more uncertainty over Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah, all of whom have deals that run until 2025.

In theory, there should be no debate over Alexander-Arnold. Clearly, the club should want to tie down its vice-captain, who still has his peak years ahead of him and has the chance to become one of the all-time Liverpool greats.

Salah and Van Dijk already have that status. But they are also both over 30, and that will give Edwards at least a little pause for thought.

Van Dijk is making all of the right noises. He made his clearest statement yet recently, declaring that he wants to be part of the 'transition' under Slot.

"There will be a big transition and I am part of that," Van Dijk said, per the BBC. "I think the club is very much busy with who is going to be the new manager and that is the main focus.

"Like I said I am very happy here, I love the club and you can see that as well. It's a big part of my life already, and that is all I can say."

The team as a whole has struggled on the defensive side in the latter part of the campaign, but the overall season has been positive for Van Dijk. Appointed as Liverpool captain, it's arguably the first year he's looked truly back to something like his best since the injury suffered against Everton.

The update fans would like, then, is that Van Dijk will sign an extension. The idea of having one of the vest defenders in the world remaining in the heart of the back line for years to come is highly attractive.

But how much is that idea rooted in reality? Turning 33 in the summer, it cannot be assumed that even this resurgent version of Van Dijk has indefinite time left at the very top level. Liverpool rejected Rúben Amorim in part because of his tendency to play a back three — if the Reds have no inclination to explore that route, which can mask older defenders' weaknesses and bring out their remaining strengths, then you'd have to assume the clock is ticking.

Nor can Edwards (or indeed Van Dijk) ignore the financial realities. The player can still justifiably command a big wage, but Liverpool does have to think carefully about whether it wants to pay it. Meanwhile, there may well be suitors with less stringent structures that will happily pay the Dutchman more handsomely.

It's certainly a good thing that Van Dijk envisions himself as part of the transition under Slot. More likely than not, this will prove to indeed be the case, hopefully beyond just the next season too. But Liverpool fans hoping for a decisive update may be set for disappointment, with so many factors at play.