This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
It has been a rather stunning 18 months for Virgil van Dijk.
In January of last year, the 28-year-old was still with Southampton in the bottom half of the Premier League table. That was when the Reds paid £75m to take him to Anfield, and he has arguably already paid back that huge fee. Since his arrival, the Merseyside outfit have made two Champions League finals, one of which they won, whilst they were within touching distance of the league title last term. During the previous campaign, the Netherlands international contributed heavily to the Reds having the best defence in the Premier League.
Now, they lead the table by eight points from Leicester City, and have won an astonishing 15 matches from their first 16. And again, the former Celtic defender has been an ever-present, starting each and every match. His displays last campaign earned him second place in the Ballon d’Or rankings – and some people were even convinced he should have taken top spot.
There has been plenty of praise for him, and the latest legend to laud the colossus is none other than former Manchester United centre-back – and compatriot – Jaap Stam. Speaking on Stadium Astro on Saturday, he said when asked if van Dijk was better than him:
“Yeah, maybe even better, I don’t know. But Virgil is a presence. That’s very important as a football player if you want to play in the highest leagues and the biggest clubs. Positioning yourself is very important. In possession and also out of possession because it helps you a lot. You get times to do things and he’s doing a fantastic job.”
There are plenty of similarities beyond their nationality of course. Both are fantastic in regards to their positioning, for example. And they have had a similar influence on their respective teams. The season before Stam joined United, Arsenal won the league. The 47-year-old then won three titles on the trot, before departing for Lazio. United then won prevailed in just one of the next five campaigns.
Real Reds will get full marks: Take the ultimate Liverpool quiz below…
Should Van Dijk help his team to the title this term, it would surely put him alongside the ex-PSV man. And should that happen, expect the praise to keep on coming.
In other news, Liverpool are ready to offer this man a new contract.