John van’t Schip and Michael Valkanis are convinced the teenage defender will flourish at Anfield, but want to see expectations lowered at this stage
Liverpool have got “lucky” in winning the race for Dutch teenager Sepp van den Berg though it would be “stupid” to compare the 17-year-old with Virgil van Dijk, say a pair of the teenager’s former coaches.
The Reds have snapped up a highly-rated defender for £1.3 million, beating the likes of Bayern Munich and Ajax to his signature.
Big things are expected of a promising talent who has already been billed as ‘Baby Van Dijk’.
Jurgen Klopp is hoping to benefit from Van den Berg’s undoubted potential but John van’t Schip, who handed the youngster his senior debut for PEC Zwolle, feels it is far too early to be likening a player with much to prove to the finest centre-half on the planet.
He told the Liverpool Echo of the Van Dijk talk: “It’s stupid of course. You just have to let him develop in his own way.
“He doesn’t have the physical [body] of Virgil and he’s got a totally different pathway. Virgil started with some lower teams and could develop himself with Groningen and Celtic.
“Seppi has only played 20 games in the Eredivisie and is now going to Liverpool. That’s a totally different build up.
“I think the thing with him is people must understand he’s not a first team player yet. They have to get him there and he’ll have to work.
“If Sepp was playing at Ajax he would not be in the first team, he would be in the second team or maybe have some time playing in the cups.”
Michael Valkanis, who has worked in youth academies in Australia and the Netherlands, is another who has seen plenty of Van den Berg.
He believes Liverpool have pulled off quite the coup in snapping up a player who could prove to be “fantastic” for them in time.
“I was impressed with the calmness and ability of a 16-year-old to play at the highest level in Holland,” said Valkanis.
“He’s always been a very mature player for his age, Sepp may come across young but he plays with experience somehow.
“He’s capable of reading the game very well, physically he’s strong for his age, he’s tall, quick and comfortable on the ball.
“In saying that there’s a lot of improvement in him. Many clubs have seen there’s a lot of potential and Liverpool are the lucky club who will have a fantastic central defender.
“I think when you look at him for his height, you don’t think he can be quick, but Seppi is very athletic. I think he’s done very well in the Eredivisie – which is known for good attacking football with quick wingers.”
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