ALL you can do is throw your hands up and conclude Jurgen Klopp must really like him. I mean, really, really like him. To the point of believing he is the only one out there or, at least, the only attainable one out there.

This isn’t being unduly harsh to Virgil van Dijk. He is a tremendous central defender. It is about putting his acquisition in context. He cost £75 million, making him the joint seventh most expensive player in history. He is also a defender. He cost roughly one-and-a-half times as much as the next most expensive defender, who stands at number 24 on the all-time list.

But there is more. Van Dijk turns 27 next summer. Every other player in the top 10 was younger at the time of their mega-transfer, bar two, who cost roughly as much as Van Dijk: Gonzalo Higuain and Luis Suarez. Both, of course, are prolific central strikers who had been performing at the highest level for a long time when they moved clubs. And whether it is fair or not, the sport has always valued those who produce goals (whether scoring them or creating them) far more than those whose primary business is to keep them out.

In that sense, Liverpool are stomping all over conventional wisdom. Assuming Van Dijk can maintain his level until he is 34 – which is, in itself, a considerable assumption – Liverpool will have seven-and-a-half seasons over which to spread his mega fee. Forget the cliches about the Premier League being awash with money – it is, but it’s a matter of degree – Klopp is going way out on a limb on this one.

There is more. Scan the other most expensive players in history and there is an obvious pattern. To a man, they were highly-rated household names as teenagers, who won their first international cap and joined Champions League calibre clubs before their 21st birthday.

Van Dijk did not move to Celtic until he was 22. And he wasn’t capped for Holland until he was 24.

Again, this doesn’t make him bad and it is by no means a guarantee that Liverpool have vastly overrated him. But it does suggest that one of two things happened. Either he improved tremendously during his time at Parkhead – which is possible, though, again, footballers rarely develop exponentially once they have hit 22 or 23 – or almost everybody who scouted him from youth level through to Groningen got it wrong and failed to see his obvious potential. Again, that is possible too, it is just odd that it didn’t happen with any of the other most expensive players in history.

On the pitch, there are other factors that make this a head-scratcher. He suffered major ligament injury less than a year ago and, since then, has started just 11 games. Liverpool’s medical staff have, no doubt, done their homework, but it is another element of uncertainty in the mix.

Even more uncertain is his playing style and where he fits in. The naysayers will point out that Liverpool already have a tall, ball-playing central defender from Southampton, Dejan Lovren, and he hasn’t exactly been the reincarnation of Alan Hansen.

Van Dijk’s aerial prowess is an undoubted plus on set-pieces, both attacking and defending, but the other area where he excels, long-range passing, may be less of a factor at Anfield. That is because Liverpool often play in the opposition half, certainly more so than Southampton, where he was often key in launching the counter-attack. Nor is he the quickest over short distances and that may be a concern for a side that occasionally leaves their centre-backs exposed high up the pitch.

As transfers go, this one can best be described as counter-intuitive, in both price and substance. That doesn’t make it a bad move. What it does mean is that Klopp, who has built his success on being unconventional, has once again thought outside the box. Way outside it. Time will tell if he has gone too far or if it turns out to be a masterstroke.

SWANSEA’S decision to sack Paul Clement and replace him with Carlos Carvalhal took the number of managerial casualties before the new year to six. That is twice as many as at the same stage last season. The stock explanation is that clubs necessarily have to take these extreme measures because relegation – and, make no mistake, it is about relegation given that five of the six changes came with a club in the drop zone and the sixth was made with the club one place above it – is some kind of doomsday scenario.

Devoid of the Premier League TV riches and stuck in the uncertainty of the Championship, clubs flail and struggle and ultimately shrivel up. That is what we are told, anyway. In fact, the majority of clubs in the bottom half of the table have relegation clauses in players’ contracts, where wages are automatically reduced, thereby cutting costs. Plus, of course, they benefit from parachute payments that soften the blow.

Changing managers isn’t a bad thing if it is part of a coherent medium-term (there is very little that is long-term in football) plan. I mean the sort of blueprint where you think you have identified the right guy in terms of leadership and football philosophy and you are willing to stick it out even if you get relegated. But if it is purely about results, if it is a desperate see-what-sticks move, all it does is leave you in the same position the following year.

Football clubs exist in a space somewhere between entertainment and ritual. The ritual part will always be there no matter the level, no matter the results: heck, 15,000 still show up at Hull City to watch an awful team threatened with relegation to League One. It is the entertainment that matters, because those are the fans you lose when you go down. Given the gap between the super clubs and the rest, you can no longer sell the idea of one day getting into the Champions League, let alone competing for a title. You need to find something else, something other than mid-table survival (which quickly goes stale, just ask Stoke or West Brom) or perpetual relegation battles.

It might be the style of play, it might be the relationship with supporters, it might be youth development. Whatever it is, it has to be something that can be maintained over time, regardless of what division you are in. Choosing the right man to drive that is more important in the medium term than simply hoping to pick the right fire-fighting mid-season short-term replacement.