“I think he’s the best centre-half of all time,” Owen boldly said live on BT Sport. “He’s bigger than everyone, he’s faster than everyone, he’s stronger than everyone, he’s brilliant on the ball, he scores goals. I’ve never seen anything like it.
“The only thing that goes against Van Dijk at the moment – and I stress, at the moment – is his winners’ medals. He’s only won one Premier League and one Champions League.”
It’s a huge claim and one that understandably sparked a lot of debate.
Van Dijk is a world-class defender and probably the best in the world right now, but is he really the greatest the sport has ever seen?
Well, the folks over at the Daily Mail have provided their own take on the centre-back GOAT question and the Liverpool man doesn’t take top spot in their ranking.
Let’s run through their 10-man list, which doesn’t include Paolo Maldini due to the fact he spent a large portion of his career at left-back…
10. Daniel Passarella
Despite standing at just 5’8″, Passarella was a magnificent centre-back. He captained Argentina to World Cup glory on home soil in 1978 and scored over 150 goals throughout the course of his marvellous career.
9. Marcel Desailly
A player who’s somewhat underrated in the present day. Desailly won back-to-back Champions Leagues with Marseille and AC Milan, was a key part of the France side that triumphed at the 1998 World Cup and also captained a pre-takeover Chelsea side to FA Cup success in 2000.
8. Ronald Koeman
The greatest goal scoring defender in history. For club and country, Koeman found the back of the net 239 times, a career return which a top-quality striker would be proud of. He also scored the goal that won Barcelona their first ever European Cup in 1992.
7. Carles Puyol
Puyol was the man who held the great Barcelona and Spain sides of the late 2000s and early 2010s together. He was an absolute rock at the back and never gave anything less than 100% on the pitch. An icon of the game who Barcelona miss to this very day.
6. Sergio Ramos
The master of the dark arts – and a pragmatic genius. Ramos was the ultimate leader during his time at Real Madrid, playing a crucial role in the team’s four Champions League wins in five years. He’s also scored over 100 goals in his career, which certainly isn’t normal for a centre-back.
5. Fabio Cannavaro
The first Ballon d’Or winner on show. Cannavaro scooped the accolade in 2006 after his incredible performances in Italy’s World Cup-winning campaign that year. The small, but powerful, defender also excelled at club level with Real Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan, Napoli and Parma.
4. Virgil van Dijk
So, Van Dijk takes fourth spot on the Daily Mail’s list. The publication believe the Liverpool man is the Premier League’s greatest ever centre-back, as none of the top three ever played in the English top-flight from 1992/93 onwards. Yes, that means John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic miss out entirely.
3. Franco Baresi
A defender who was so good that AC Milan retired the No 6 shirt in honour of his unquestionable brilliance. Baresi thwarted strikers for fun in the 1980s and 1990s, finishing his time at the top with three Champions Leagues and six Serie A titles. He was also a Ballon d’Or runner up in 1989 and voted Milan’s ‘Player of the Century’ in 1999.
2. Bobby Moore
England’s only World Cup-winning captain and one of the greatest footballers the country has ever produced. The West Ham legend often made the defensive side of the game look beautiful and his tackle on Brazil’s Jairzinho at the 1970 World Cup is often heralded as the finest ever seen on a football pitch. Moore was deservedly named the PFA ‘Player of the Century’ back in 2007.
1. Franz Beckenbauer
Who else could it be, eh? Beckenbauer used the skills he picked up from playing in midfield to become the ultimate defender. The man nicknamed ‘Der Kaiser’ was incredible for West Germany and Bayern Munich, winning a World Cup and two European Cups. He also won two Ballon d’Ors and famously played in a sling during West Germany’s 4-3 World Cup semi-final win over Italy in 1970 after suffering a dislocated shoulder. A true warrior.