There are more similarities between Virgil van Dijk and Nathan Ake than their Dutch heritage and instantly recognisable haircuts. Both are fine centre-halves, their combative, front foot defending suggesting that they could develop into genuinely top class stalwarts for a nation typically renowned for disregarding the ‘dark arts’ of defending.
And with Van Dijk’s immediate future at Southampton still up in the air, wouldn’t it be fitting if Ake replaced his compatriot at St Mary’s?
Southampton face a challenge replacing Virgil van Dijk
According to The Telegraph, that is exactly what could happen with the Saints potentially offering as much as £20 million for the Chelsea-owned prospect this summer. Though Mauricio Pellegrino’s side face competition from South Coast rivals Bournemouth, where Ake shone on loan in the first-half of last season, moving to St Mary’s could be the making of the 22-year-old.
Jack Stephens and the previously maligned Maya Yoshida stepped in to good effect when Van Dijk was injured in the second half of last season and Jose Fonte completed a move to West Ham. However, Ake would represent a step up in quality.
And he would be joining a club renowned for its ability to help talented players reach their potential. The likes of Morgan Schneiderlin, Sadio Mane and, potentially, Van Dijk, secured big money moves to a bona fide Premier League giant after thriving on the South Coast.
Nathan Ake needs a permanent move after a series of loans
Though no fan wants to hear their club be described as a ‘stepping stone’, Southampton could hand Ake the opportunity to prove he belongs at the very top.