Richard Buxton: Van Dijk test could be Timo Werner’s EPL audition
Striker has long been linked to Liverpool, talked up a move to Manchester
Nothing gets past Virgil van Dijk, or at least that used to be the theory.
The Uefa Player of the Year remains imperious but is no longer infallible.
Twice in three weeks, chinks in the Liverpool defender's formidable armour began to show.
In the Community Shield, Gabriel Jesus seemingly ended van Dijk's long streak of never being dribbled past.
But his 65-match run remained intact because it was not deemed a competitive fixture.
A fortnight later, in the English Premier League, Arsenal's Nicolas Pepe ended any doubts, and the streak.
Timo Werner joked that "it gets dark pretty quickly" if he stands next to the Holland captain, but the Germany forward has a perfect opportunity to cast a shadow on the 28-year-old when they face off in a Euro 2020 qualifier on Saturday morning (Singapore time).
Both players' teams are sitting pretty atop their respective leagues, with Werner's prolific return of five goals in three appearances propelling RB Leipzig to the Bundesliga summit last weekend.
There is, however, more than scalping van Dijk at stake for the in-demand hitman.
In an alternative universe, the pair would be regularly doing battle on Melwood's training pitches rather than on the international stage, where Joachim Loew's side and the Nations League finalists prepare to face off for a fourth time in 11 months.
Werner has regularly been touted for a move to Anfield which is yet to materialise, despite reverse come-and-get-me pleas from both Sadio Mane and Naby Keita.
Bayern Munich remain the most likely destination for Germany's hottest prospect.
It always is.
Whoever the Bavarian side desires, they invariably end up signing.
Just ask Borussia Dortmund.
Still only 23, Werner continues to be touted as Robert Lewandowski's heir apparent, while Leipzig appear to have laid the groundwork for his eventual departure in the next 12 months.
His newly signed contract in east Germany may run until the summer of 2023 but carries a 30 million-euro (S$45.7m) release clause, small change for a player whose stock is still on the rise.
The signing of Patrik Schick, barely two months his junior, on an initial loan deal from AS Roma, is further confirmation that Leipzig already know that the writing is on the wall, especially with the Czech Republic international's own transfer clause standing at 28m euros.
But it is not necessarily Bayern or bust for Werner.
Ironically, Leroy Sane's season- ending injury has afforded him the opportunity to seize his chance with Germany, and beyond.
The winger was on the verge of a move to the Allianz Arena before the fateful setback in Manchester City's win over Liverpool at Wembley last month.
Werner's attacking versatility would become a useful commodity for the EPL champions, while helping accelerate the Etihad Stadium's current changing of the guard.
David Silva is set to depart next summer and Sergio Aguero, conceivably, is unlikely to be far behind him.
In either position, Werner represents a perfect fit - especially if, as expected, Sane's protracted switch to Bayern is revived in the forthcoming transfer windows.
A move to the English top flight is not beyond the realms of possibility.
Besides Bayern, he has gone on record about the attraction of playing for City or Manchester United.
Luka Jovic's switch to Real Madrid, similarly, will have given fresh food for thought about La Liga too.
If Werner can follow in the footsteps of Jesus and Pepe against van Dijk, a brighter future beyond the monopoly of Bayern's Saebener Strasse will undoubtedly open up.
GROUP C FIXTURES
- Estonia v Belarus, 11.55pm
- Germany v Holland, 2.45am
- Estonia v Holland, 2.45am
- N. Ireland v Germany, 2.45am