According to the Liverpool Echo's Ian Doyle, the Reds have earmarked the Dutchman as their primary target this summer and as such "are prepared to match the financial clout" of City and Chelsea to land him.
Neil Moxley of the Sunday People (via the Mirror) reported the Sky Blues will make a £60 million bid for Van Dijk and offer him a lucrative five-year contract with a weekly pay packet of over £200,000.
The 25-year-old missed the second half of the season because of an injury suffered in January, but prior to that, he had been enjoying an excellent campaign.
Both football writer Liam Canning and ESPN FC's Iain Macintosh both expressed their admiration of him:
Liam Canning @LiamPaulCanning
I can't get over how good Virgil van Dijk has been this season for Southampton. Easily the best centre-back in the Premier League right now.2016-11-19 15:47:53
Iain Macintosh @iainmacintosh
If Jose Mourinho wants a new centre-back, and I suspect he does, a move for Virgil van Dijk wouldn't go amiss. The man is a colossus.2016-11-19 15:41:46
Indeed, in the 21 Premier League matches he managed for Saints in the 2016-17 season, he won 30 tackles and an astonishing 96 aerial duels, as well as making 56 interceptions, 14 blocks and 140 clearances, per Squawka.
The all-action defender has made the step up to the English top flight with ease since arriving from Celtic, and during his time in Scotland he also made 19 appearances in the UEFA Champions League, albeit 13 of them were at the qualification stage.
Liverpool sorely need more defensive quality—only Arsenal conceded more than their 42 in the Premier League's top six last season.
Even Dejan Lovren, who for the most part has been much improved under manager Jurgen Klopp, is still capable of producing some poor performances, per football writer Jack Lusby:
Jack Lusby @jacklusby_
I'd say that was a 0/10 performance from Lovren in the first half.2017-5-21 14:56:19
Van Dijk would take them much closer to where they need to be, and he and Joel Matip could form a robust partnership if they have chemistry together.
However, even if Liverpool can put together a similarly enticing financial package as City and Chelsea, it seems the Citizens could still have the advantage in the race to sign him, per James Robson of the Manchester Evening News:
James Robson @JamesRobsonMEN
Growing belief Van Dijk will head to #mcfc. Reported in April that his preference was to play for Guardiola2017-6-4 15:09:15
City also have need for improvement at the back, as they weren't much better than the Reds with 39 goals shipped.
Liverpool writer Dave O'Connell believes the reported transfer fees and wages are all too high, though:
To be honest I think that all the media talk has people thinking Van Dijk is better than he is. A good defender but the figures are obscene.2017-6-1 21:38:38
Indeed, £60 million is a significant investment in any player, let alone a defender, but with the way the transfer market appears to be going, such numbers could increasingly become the norm.
Van Dijk is among the top players in his position in the league and significantly more attainable than some of his counterparts at other top-six clubs.
With City, Chelsea and Liverpool all able to offer Champions League football and lucrative contracts, it could come down to the player's desire to play for Pep Guardiola.