Liverpool have been told they should consider selling Virgil van Dijk after the Dutch defender endured a night to forget against Real Madrid this week.

Liverpool were humbled 5-2 by Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 meeting at Anfield on Tuesday, despite the fact that they raced into a 2-0 lead.

After Mohamed Salah followed up Darwin Nunez’s superb opener by pouncing on a rare Thibaut Courtois mistake, the reigning European champions roared back with goals from Vinicius Junior, Eder Militao and Karim Benzema.

While a horrendous mistake from Alisson and some good fortune certainly helped the visitors hit five goals without reply, Van Dijk didn’t exactly cover himself in glory.

Van Dijk and centre-back partner Joe Gomez endured a torrid evening as the Liverpool backline seemed out of synch and out of confidence.

Speaking to The Times, former Chelsea striker Tony Cascarino argued it might be time for Liverpool to part way with their talismanic defender.

“Gomez plays Rodrygo onside and is then unfortunate with a deflection, but Virgil van Dijk should not escape criticism,” he said.

“As the senior centre back, he should recognise that his partner is struggling and ensure the back line is flat. However, the Dutchman was often raising his eyebrows or looking to the ground.

“This body language reminds me of Van Dijk’s final season at Southampton, when he was pushing for a move to Anfield.

Virgil van Dijk and Liverpool have endured tough seasons (Orange Pics BV/Alamy Live News)”Five years on, I think it could be time for Liverpool to consider selling him themselves. The Van Dijk that was among the best in the world has disappeared.”

To be fair to Van Dijk, some factors beyond his control have contributed to his poor form this season. A hamstring injury that kept him out of six games recently is bound to have left him a bit rusty, while it’s never easy for a defender to perform well when the midfield in front of them lacks legs and quality.

Whatever the underlying causes of Liverpool’s and Van Dijk’s struggles this season, the reality is that Jurgen Klopp’s side find themselves needing to overturn a three-goal deficit at the Bernabeu next month if they want to reach the quarter-finals.

Liverpool are 19 points adrift of Premier League leaders Arsenal, and are already out of both the FA Cup and Carabao Cup.