It’s now a widely-shared opinion that Virgil van Dijk is the best defender in the Premier League.
Liverpool paid £75 million for the Netherlands international and he’s helped to transform their defence into the stingiest in the Premier League; the Reds have conceded just seven goals this season.
Liverpool’s defence held them back for so long but Jurgen Klopp has built a backline that perfectly compliments their devastating attack.
The plaudits have poured in and Jamie Redknapp believes Van Dijk combines the qualities of three of the finest centre-backs to play in England’s top flight.
“Think of the best defenders in Premier League history - John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Van Dijk is all three players rolled into one,” Redknapp wrote in his Daily Mail column.
While that may be a stretch, there’s no question that the 27-year-old has been Liverpool’s most important player this season.
Jurgen Klopp knew he was signing a quality player but Van Dijk has taken his game to another level in the year he’s spent at Anfield.
Crouch came up against Van Dijk
Peter Crouch spoke about Van Dijk in his latest Daily Mail column and he reflected on his first experience playing against the centre-back.
Van Dijk’s style reminded Crouch not of a bruising defender, but of the more refined Ledley King.
“I played against Van Dijk when he was at Southampton. I knew he was good but I didn't have him in the category of Tony Adams, Sol Campbell or Martin Keown, the central defenders who you knew would leave you battered and bruised,” Crouch wrote.
“If anything, he reminded me of Ledley King. Ledley never left himself in a position where he needed to make slide tackles, he just had a way of getting in front of you to take the ball. Ledley, really, never got the recognition of just how good he was.”
Crouch watched Van Dijk in Liverpool’s recent win against Wolves and watching the Dutchman outpace Adama Traore left him awestruck.
“But I watched Van Dijk last week when Liverpool beat Wolves and he did something that made me think 'Oh, my God!' - it was when Adama Traore looked like he was going to open up on the touchline, having dragged Van Dijk out of position,” the former Liverpool striker added.
“Usually, a fast striker would leave you for dead but Van Dijk's reaction was extraordinary.
“For a man so big and heavy to move so effortlessly alongside was remarkable and it shows why they have such a good defensive record.”
If Liverpool go on to win the title, then it will be impossible to overlook Van Dijk’s contribution.