Virgil Van Dijk has worked his way to become the best defender in the world

Bryce Ros

Virgil van Dijk has grown to be the best defender in the world over the past few years. He has had a long transition from the Dutch club Groningen, to Celtic, and finally to Southampton before ending up at Liverpool. The CB from Breda, Netherlands has been one of the most exciting players in the EPL to watch. Van Dijk is a hybrid of every great defender in world football, except he holds abilities that even some of the best defenders do not. For example, Gerard Pique is a very tall and large CB for Barcelona, he has a good eye for movement and is generally considered to be a top 10 defender in the world. Van Dijk has that same size and height, but with a great deal more speed to be able to cover back. Even the great Lionel Messi has been stopped by the Dutchman, Barca’s #10 had this to say about the defender: “He is a defender who knows how to judge his timing and wait for the right moment to challenge or jockey [the attacker]. He is very fast and big, but he has a lot of agility for his height. He is fast because of its [sic] great stride, and he is impressive both in defense and attack because he scores lots of goals.”

That is high praise from the best player in the world. The CB has also been noticed for his leadership as he wears the armband for Liverpool F.C and leads by example. That is one of the most important things about Van Dijk, he has a motor that never stops. We see so many great players in the EPL and around the world, but 100% effort given nearly all the time is very rare to see in the best players. Paul Pogba is a perfect example of this. Many consider him to be one of the best midfielders in the world and with good reason. The Frenchmen has an imposing size, as well as excellent ability to hold up the ball and pass, but he can be seen not hustling quite often. It is not easy to run over 7 Kilometers during a game, but there have been examples of his lack of hunger ending up in a goal for the other thing. In the mind of Virgil Van Dijk, it seems that it is not even feasible to take a second off during the 90 minutes of play.
The guy is clutch too, the tackles he makes running back are rarely seen even by the best defenders in the past. Some would argue that Sergio Ramos is the best CB in the World and he is certainly in the conversation. What sets Van Dijk apart is his athletic ability and mind. Let us not forget that Sergio Ramos holds the record for the most red cards in the history of Real Madrid. Although back in his prime more of an argument could be made. Van Dijk has only been sent off 5 times for accumulation, or a straight red. True he has had 38 yellows in his career, but he knows when to take one out of necessity rather than just being dumb or selfish. He shows great maturity for only being 28 years old, and that maturity will only grow.

He is also a rather prolific goal scorer, at least for a defender in today’s footballing world having scored 40 goals throughout his professional career. He is a stalwart in the middle of the field, a brick that can only be moved by the most skilled of architects. Liverpool’s decision to sign him from Southampton was brilliant. In the words of an American Football coach, “If we score we may win, if they score they may win, but if they never score, we will never lose. Defense wins championships.” The team this year is only giving up .70 goals per game. Quite an important statistic when you think about the number of goals Liverpool has put in the opposing nets. There is no question that the Dutchman has played a huge role in the ascendency of the STILL undefeated club.

Van Dijk is also extremely versatile, although typically a player who plays right of left CB, he can also be pushed up to play defensive midfield. He also allows Liverpool the ability to allow Alexander-Arnold, and Robertson forward to put in crosses. The mid-field also combines to allow this, but Van Dijk is a defender that can take on the best players in the world and win. When you combine what he has brought to the team, along with all the other great players Liverpool possesses, the undefeated season is looking more and more possible. Truthfully Van Dijk deserved The Ballon d'Or last year, but (and this is only one opinion) I believe it wasn’t given to him because he is a defender. Since the award has been handed out beginning in 1956, only three defenders have ever won the coveted prize. If there ever was a fourth defender to add to that group, one would have to say it should be Virgil Van Dijk.