When Premier League giants, Liverpool shelled out a whopping £75m to sign Dutch defender, Virgil Van Dijk in the January transfer window of last season, they became the subject of ridicule. After all, they had been humiliated in their pursuit of the then Southampton centreback the previous summer, which ended with a public apology to the South Coast outfit who accused The Reds of illegally “tapping up” the towering defender. Van Dijk had always expressed desire to play for Liverpool under the tutelage of Jurgen Klopp and even rejected advances from Chelsea and Manchester City.
In the 16/17 season, he had shone for The Saints and was rated as the best defender in the Premier League alongside Toby Alderweireld of Tottenham before injury curtailed his campaign . However, his form in his last half season with the St. Mary’s outfit didn’t inspire a lot of confidence. As suggested by popular betting site Tropicana sportsbook, the player was 7/4 odds-on to join Chelsea before eventually signing for Liverpool who has helped him to reach even new heights.
He scored a late goal in his first game for the 18-time league champions in a crucial derby game against Everton. It was a sign of things to come. Prior to that time, Liverpool were shipping in goals like a basket, a fact that ultimately cost them in the Champions League final against Real Madrid with Loris Karius the main culprit.
The addition of Alisson as the new goalkeeper has worked a treat, with the former Roma goalie offering quality and composure at the goal in a way not seen at the Kop end since the days of the iconic Pepe Reina. While Alisson hss been exceptional, it is Van Dijk that makes Liverpool tick. The 6ft 5in defender simply hss everything and is being mentioned in the same breath as Diego Godin and Sergio Ramos, two players who are arguably the best of their kind in the whole of Europe.
The impact Van Dijk has had at Liverpool has been nothing short of phenomenal; Liverpool currently boast the best defensive record in the league, conceding just 7 times in 17 league goals. The former Celtic man stands out for his towering frame, but looks can be very deceiving. He is deceptively quick and is very strong, evidenced by his bullying of Romelu Lukaku in the game against Manchester United last weekend. In a football age that postulates that defenders have to be good on the ball, he ticks that box.
He helps the team build out from the back, finding teammates with short and long passes and rarely loses possession. He is also strong aerially, using his slender frame and agility to win aerial duels. His speed ensures that he rarely needs to make bone-crushing tackles as he is an astute reader of the game, almost John Terry-esque. He is also a leader of men, highlighted by the fact that he is the 2nd vice-captain behind James Milner and club captain, Jordan Henderson as the go-to men on the pitch and dressing room.
Liverpool are currently unbeaten in the league this term, and for them to end 28 years of hurt, Van Dijk will be a crucial part of any potential success. £75m looks like a snip now.