Happy 28th birthday to Virgil van Dijk, the best defender in world football

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League  Final

Although hindsight is a wonderful thing, it’s still amusing to look back at what certain pundits said when Liverpool paid Southampton £75 million for Virgil van Dijk back in January 2018.

Alan Shearer said on BBC 5 Live at the time: "Southampton have got one hell of a deal. Van Dijk is a good player, yes, but for £75m? No, he's not worth it at all.”

In fairness to Shearer, he wasn’t the only person who thought Liverpool has grossly overpaid on the Dutch centre-back. In fact, it’s fair to say that the majority of football fans thought the transfer fee was excessive, to put it lightly.

Fast-forward 18 months, though, and Van Dijk has been worth every single penny.

In fact, £75 million now looks an absolute bargain. If Liverpool were to sell him now, they’d fetch at least double that.

His achievements at Anfield in such a short amount of time are nothing short of remarkable.

After helping Liverpool finish the previous Premier League campaign on 97 points - one agonising point behind champions Manchester City - with a host of commanding performances, Van Dijk received the Premier League Player of the Season award.

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Not a single player successfully dribbled past the Netherlands international in the 2018/19 Premier League or Champions League campaigns. A phenomenal and unprecedented statistic.

He also became the first defender since John Terry in 2004/05 to win the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award.

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However, Van Dijk is a team player and his proudest achievement will be lifting the European Cup with the Reds in Madrid last month.

The Dutchman, who celebrates his 28th birthday today, is now the bookmakers’ favourite to win the 2019 Ballon d’Or ahead of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

Because he’s only just turned 28, there’s a chance that the best is still to come from Van Dijk - which is scary to think.

Liverpool FC v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League

If he improves more over the next couple of years, we’ll surely be talking about Van Dijk as one of the greatest defenders the game has ever seen.

It’s just surprising that it’s taken this long for him to cement his status as one of the world’s best centre-backs.

He joined Southampton in 2015 following two years with Celtic and remained at St. Mary’s for two-and-a-half seasons before finally moving to Anfield.

The Reds’ decision to pay big to bring him to Merseyside has paid off better than anybody at the club could have imagined.

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