Plenty of eyebrows were raised when Liverpool splashed out a cool £75 million on Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk in January.
Although the Dutchman had established his reputation as a first-class central defender during his time at St Mary’s, most football fans thought the transfer fee was excessive.
Liverpool, however, had money to burn after agreeing to sell Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona in a deal worth a staggering £142 million. Their defence desperately needed strengthening and Jurgen Klopp reacted by signing the centre-back he’d been pursuing for the best part of a year.
The 26-year-old enjoyed a dream debut, scoring a late winning goal in the FA Cup third round against Everton at Anfield in front of the Kop End.
However, Van Dijk was soon brought back down to earth with a bump following back-to-back defeats against Swansea City and West Brom.
But those who doubted the Netherlands international have been made to look very silly in the months since that shock home defeat against the Baggies in the FA Cup fourth round.
Liverpool’s defensive record has improved beyond belief with Van Dijk in the side - the Reds have conceded just seven goals in all competitions in their last 14 matches - and that £75 million now feels like money very well spent.
Troy Deeney knows what it's like to face Van Dijk
One striker who knows exactly what it’s like to face this current Liverpool side, marshalled by Van Dijk at the back, is Watford’s Troy Deeney.
The powerful centre-forward went head-to-head against Van Dijk at Anfield last month and was substituted on the 70th minute after failing to make an impact.
Liverpool recorded an emphatic 5-0 victory, with Mohamed Salah netting four goals for Klopp’s side.
Deeney, speaking on Graham Hunter's 'The Big Interview' podcast, dropped his honest opinion about the Reds’ record signing.
Deeney drops honest opinion about Van Dijk
"He’s the best by far,” the 29-year-old was quoted as saying by the Liverpool Echo. "[He's] six foot six inches tall, quick, confident with the ball at his feet, and doesn’t mind a physical battle.
"He’s the closest thing we’ve got to a complete defender in the Premier League.
“He’s also a non-stop talker. Communication is massive for a defender, and he says those little things that people from the outside don’t see.
“I think he’s going to make a huge difference to that Liverpool team."
High praise from Deeney - and he might be right
The closest thing we’ve got a complete defender in the Premier League? High praise indeed from Deeney.
He might have a point, too.
Van Dijk possesses all the attributes you’d expect to see from a modern-day world-class central defender.
He’s quick, strong, reads the game well, can play a pass and isn’t afraid to bring the ball out of defence.
The Dutchman is also a leader - and it’s his leadership qualities which have undoubtedly made a huge difference at Anfield over the past four months.
Is Troy Deeney right about Virgil van Dijk? Have your say by leaving a comment below.
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