Virgil van Dijk: How 8 strikers have reacted after facing the Liverpool star

Liverpool FC v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League

It would be difficult to put any other centre-back ahead of Virgil van Dijk right now.

The Liverpool defender is playing at an extraordinary level, helping lead the Reds to Champions League glory last season.

Last year ended with Van Dijk placing second at the 2019 Ballon d’Or, just seven votes behind Lionel Messi.

His critics will point to the lack of silverware compared to the likes of John Terry and Rio Ferdinand, but there’s certainly an argument to be made that no other Premier League centre-back has played at such a high level.

Many strikers have found like difficult with Van Dijk marking them, and they’ve even told the tale.

From Messi to Glenn Murray, here are eight strikers’ accounts of what it’s like to come up against Van Dijk.

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Final

Lionel Messi

Messi may have beaten Van Dijk to the Ballon d’Or but the Netherlands international came out on top when Liverpool faced Barcelona in the semi-final of the 2019 Champions League.

The Argentinian later gave his thoughts about Van Dijk in an interview with Marca.

“He is a defender who knows how to judge his timing and wait for the right moment to challenge or jockey [the attacker],” Messi said.

“He is very fast and big, but he has a lot of agility for his height.

“He is fast because of his great stride, and he is impressive both in defence and attack because he scores lots of goals.”

Barcelona v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: First Leg

Sergio Aguero

Manchester City star Aguero has the misfortune of meeting Van Dijk at least twice a season.

The pair have enjoyed many fierce battles and Aguero recently delivered an in-depth assessment the Liverpool star’s qualities.

“We all know Van Dijk is one of the best centre-backs in the world. He’s strong, tall, has an incredible body,” Aguero told El Chiringuito, per Goal.

“He’s very strong face to face, he plays with his body. Also, given he is so tall, he has those long legs.

Manchester City v Liverpool FC - Premier League

“It looks like he isn’t fast but he is, because of his long legs – he can reach everywhere. Two steps from him are 50 for me!

“What I like the most is the way he is so smart when defending. He’s not anxious when marking, he’s very careful and patient. That makes it difficult for many strikers.

“In my case, I’m pretty fast and I like to dribble, so I need the defender to come. But if he holds he can wait for help from another defender. He’s very good at this.”

Erling Haaland 

Rising star Haaland went head-to-head with Van Dijk in the group stages of this season’s Champions League while he was still a Red Bull Salzburg player.

Haaland found the net in a 4-3 defeat at Anfield but was kept off the scoresheet in the return match.

The Norwegian, who joined Borussia Dortmund in December, told France Football that Van Dijk is the type of defender he hates coming across.

“He is so good,” Haaland said. “He is powerful, quick, he possesses all the qualities. He is an incredible player.”


Alvaro Morata

Morata’s Atletico Madrid triumphed against Liverpool in the Champions League this season, with the Spaniard netting a late goal at Anfield.

But when asked by AS to name the three toughest defenders he’s faced in his career, Morata had to name Van Dijk.

“[Giorgio] Chiellini, I don’t know if he does it on purpose, but when he meets me, he always destroys me,” Morata said.

“Sergio Ramos is also a tough defender, while when you go against Van Dijk it seems like you hit a mountain.”


Troy Deeney 

There’s no other way of saying it. Deeney HATES playing against Van Dijk.

“I’ve said it many times, I hate him,” the Wattford striker told BBC Radio 5 Live in 2018, per the Daily Mail. “I hate going up against him.

“He’s too big, too strong, too quick, too good on the ball, loves fighting, a good head of hair.”

At least he’s honest.

Watford FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League

Tammy Abraham 

Abraham has enjoyed a fine 2019/20 season, scoring 13 goals for Chelsea in the Premier League.

However, he failed to score in two appearances against Van Dijk and admitted that playing against the former Southampton defender is “annoying”.

“He’s a beast. He’s just good at what he does. He’s experienced. I try to do a little… I try to use my tricks in my head but his understanding of the game is top drawer,” Abraham said, per the Liverpool Echo.


“It is to do with little things. Movement. My movement in the box, some defenders don’t pay attention to me – they are only focused on the ball.

“With him, it’s kind of both, he’s paying attention to me and the ball, knows where I am, knows where I want to go, follows me.

“It’s quite annoying for a striker – just leave me alone!”

Glenn Murray 

Brighton striker Glenn Murray has plenty of experience against Van Dijk.

The 36-year-old labelled the centre-back a “man mountain” during an interview with Sky Sports.

“First and foremost, he is just a man mountain, isn’t he?! I mean he treated me like a 12-year-old boy. He just moves you out of the way.” Murray admitted.


“I think it’s his all-round game and his reading of the game.

“When you put somebody in defence and he makes those around him better, I think that’s the real test of a true great.”

“He’s been such a huge signing for them.”

Oli McBurnie

This season has been something of a learning experience for Sheffield United’s Oli McBurnie.

Last month admitted that he felt “like a little girl” when he came up against Van Dijk.

“It took me a few months to get up to speed,” he said, per the Sheffield Star. “I had to do gym for the first time in my life!

“I bounced off van Dijk and realised I needed to do a bit of bench press. He had everything and I felt like a little girl against him.

“I’m skinnier than a lot of defenders so when the ball goes up in the air, I give them a nudge in the air and that’s always worked, at any level.

“I tried it with van Dijk. He was off-balance, and I still bounced straight off him. I thought: ‘I’ll have to go and play off Joel Matip here instead!’.”

Sheffield United v Liverpool FC - Premier League

By the sounds of it, coming up against Van Dijk is a truly frightening experience.

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