If you were asked to build the perfect modern-day centre-back, the end result would be pretty similar to Virgil van Dijk.
The Liverpool star excels in all of the attributes needed to succeed as a central defender today: speed, power, tackling, heading, composure and reading of the game.
He’s also uniquely graceful with the ball at his feet and a handy weapon to deploy in the opposition penalty area.
Van Dijk’s consistency is almost faultless, too; he’s rarely had an off day since joining Liverpool midway through the 2017/18 season.
For all these reasons, many Liverpool fans are unashamedly willing to nominate the 28-year-old Dutchman as one of the all-time greats in his position - a tendency for which they’re often ridiculed by rival fans.
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So despite not being the first to claim Van Dijk is up there with the finest players to ever grace a football pitch, one Twitter user has got well and truly carried away by comparing him to AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini.
“i never watched and most of this platform didnt either but i refuse to believe Maldini was a better CB than VVD. How could you be any better. Like what can be improved on?,” @SeanDOlfc asks.
“Maldini was average physically, wasnt even that tall, but clearly had unbelievable reading of the game. VVD has unbelievable reading of the game but is also arguably the best aerial presence OAT and is fast to go with it.
“Every CB could have an attribute added to them. Terry wouldve liked more pace, Vidic wouldve liked to be able to know how to judge the flight of a ball behind him and play out from, Ramos has a red card issue. What would VVD actually want added to his game? 30 goals a season?”
As you can imagine, the responses reflect what most of us are likely to be thinking after being presented with an argument that’s flaky at best.
The most glaring issue with rating Van Dijk more highly than Maldini is one that will only be addressed over time: longevity.
Maldini was considered a world-class defender throughout virtually the entirety of his 25 seasons at San Siro, primarily as a left-back before shifting into the middle of the defence in the latter stages of his career.
Van Dijk’s reliance on athleticism was also brought up in the case for Maldini. Once the former Celtic man’s legs start to give up, one has to wonder if he will be anywhere near as effective as the Italian was in his 30s.
Additionally, claiming anyone could match - let alone surpass - Maldini’s toughness or leadership is also a massive call, too.
There’s an argument that the former Italy international, even at his peak, wouldn’t stand a chance in the modern game.
While it’s true that Van Dijk would likely have Maldini covered in almost every physical category, it’s difficult to compare different eras of English and Italian football.
Beyond that, a comparison of their respective trophy cabinets can’t be overlooked.
Maldini leads with seven Serie A titles and five Champions League medals among a host of others, dwarfing Van Dijk’s three trophies in Scotland and lone Champions League triumph.
Even if Van Dijk manages to play until he’s 41-years-old, even the most fanatical of Liverpool fans surely recognise that we’ll probably never see another player like Il Capitano.News Now - Sport News