Virgil van Dijk crown as the world's best defender has been restored

12 Mar 2024

Virgil van Dijk has once again asserted his dominance as the top defender globally through his exceptional performances for Liverpool.

Legitimate concerns arose last season about Van Dijk's potential decline, but he has proven indispensable to his team's pursuit of a quadruple this season.

Following his victorious leadership at Wembley as Liverpool's club captain, Virgil van Dijk joyfully remarked to the camera, "They thought I was finished!" while basking in his standout performance against Chelsea. While understandable, his statement slightly exaggerated the situation. Even Van Dijk's sternest critics never truly believed he was done. Nevertheless, there were genuine concerns about his form decline. For the first time in his illustrious career at the top level, Van Dijk displayed a hint of vulnerability during Liverpool's challenging 2022-23 season. Despite returning from a severe knee injury to play a crucial role in Liverpool's 2021-22 quadruple pursuit, there were instances last season where Van Dijk didn't seem as formidable to opponents as before. He faced challenges from players like Aleksandar Mitrovic and Gabriel Jesus, which he hadn't experienced to that extent previously.

A better centre-back than Haaland is a striker

During Sunday's match, Virgil van Dijk faced off against football's most formidable forward, Erling Haaland, and as Jamie Carragher stated on Sky Sports, "came out on top." Van Dijk even went as far as suggesting that he is "a better centre-back than Haaland is a striker."

This assertion is undoubtedly controversial. Haaland's primary role is to score goals, and he maintains an impressive scoring record, almost averaging a goal per game. If he avoids injuries, he is likely to be remembered as one of the most prolific forwards in history.

As for Van Dijk, will he be regarded as one of the greatest defenders of all time? It's uncertain, at least for now. However, he is undoubtedly a more well-rounded player than the Norwegian striker, which elevates his influence on those around him.

Carragher highlighted that "great centre-backs don't just play their own game; they control the entire back four." In the match against City, Van Dijk demonstrated mastery in this aspect.

Awesome Display at Anfield

In an impressive performance at Anfield, Virgil van Dijk stood out as the sole regular member of Liverpool's back five to start the match. Due to injuries, Alisson Becker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Ibrahima Konate were sidelined, while Andy Robertson could only make the bench.

The replacements included Conor Bradley and Jarell Quansah, both inexperienced in Premier League football before this season, along with Joe Gomez, typically a right-footed center-back, playing at left-back. Despite these challenges, Liverpool managed to limit City, known for their attacking prowess, to just one goal in the first half from a well-executed corner-kick routine. Van Dijk played a pivotal role in this defensive solidity.

Virgil van Dijk is Back

Virgil van Dijk's response to setbacks speaks volumes about his character, as he has consistently performed at a sensational level for the majority of the season. Klopp has once again hailed him as "the best defender in the world," acknowledging that while Van Dijk had some lesser spells, this is common among all players, even legendary defenders like Rio Ferdinand, Jaap Stam, and Sami Hyypia.

Klopp emphasized the importance of Van Dijk's form for the team, noting that his positive attributes remain unchanged. Van Dijk's resurgence is evident to everyone, making his impact undeniable.

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