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‘I may have to leave’ – Liverpool ace drops transfer hint amid Virgil van Dijk admission

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Liverpool’s next boss will make some key decisions on his squad for next season but one player already out on loan accepts his future may lie elsewhere.

When Liverpool pipped the likes of Bayern Munich and Ajax to the signing of then-teenager Sepp van den Berg in 2019, it looked as though it had snapped up one of the best defensive prospects in Europe. The Dutchman was just 17 when he arrived from PEC Zwolle after one season in the Eredivisie.

Van den Berg, who cost $1.6m (£1.3m/€1.5m), thought the interest from Anfield was a joke, admitting: “I was really happy and, to be honest, I was a little bit scared at first because such a big club had interest in me. I couldn’t believe it.”

But Jürgen Klopp and the Liverpool scouting department clearly saw something as he was handed his debut just a few months later in the Carabao Cup. Van den Berg would also feature in a famous 5-5 draw with Arsenal later in the competition, as well as in the FA Cup, but that has been as good as it’s got.

In fact, it is now four years since the 22-year-old’s last competitive appearance for the Reds. Van den Berg did enjoy a decent loan with Preston North End in 2021/22 in the Championship and returned to Merseyside hoping for more opportunities. He did link-up with the first-team squad for pre-season that summer but was shipped out to Germany, first to Schalke and now Mainz.

He has been a regular with Mainz this term, showcasing his aerial ability by winning the second-most aerial duels across the entire Bundesliga. He still has three years left on his Liverpool deal but it appears a parting of the ways may be on the cards this summer.

Liverpool is expected to strengthen in defense with Joël Matip set to leave on a free, while Jarell Quansah’s emergence has seen Van den Berg slip further down the pecking order behind first-choice pairing Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konaté.

“If I go back to Liverpool, it may want me to stay. If I notice that a lot of playing time is not available, then I may have to make the choice to leave. For me, it is really important that I play, ” Van den Berg told Voetbal Nieuws.

“In the years before, I did not have the feeling that I would be in the starting line-up next to Virgil. I don’t know yet what (my prospects) will be like next summer. I think I am doing well. I can handle the level at Liverpool. I can compete. But becoming a starter is, of course, still a different thing. Virgil and Konaté are not small boys. I know it will be difficult.”

If he is to leave Liverpool, Van den Berg has suggested he would like to remain in Germany or join another foreign league, rather than return to his native Netherlands. For now, his focus will be on keeping Mainz in the Bundesliga.

The Dutchman did get himself on the scoresheet on Saturday to secure a much-needed victory over Augsburg, but Mainz currently sits just three points off the bottom and seven adrift of safety.

Liverpool.com says: Van den Berg looked as though he would eventually become a first-team regular at Liverpool but that ship now looks to have sailed. He hasn’t played for the Reds in four years and now has even more players ahead of him in the pecking order. That said, Liverpool’s next manager may fancy taking a look at him in the summer.

He has done well in Germany this season despite Mainz’s struggles and should Xabi Alonso come in to replace Klopp, he will have already seen up close what the Dutchman can offer. He simply has to be playing regularly at this stage of this career though.

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