Virgil van Dijk’s defensive nous has earned him respect among some of the world’s best forwards.
Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk joined the Reds in January 2018 and has transformed the side into one of the best on the continent with his assured performances at the back.
This season, the Dutch colossus has missed out due to an ACL injury picked up against Everton last October and Jurgen Klopp’s side just don’t look the same.
Liverpool’s struggles at the back are perfectly understandable given the 29-year-old is arguably the best defender in the world.
Van Dijk has stifled several talented forwards in England and around Europe — including Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha.
Speaking on Jamie Carragher’s the Greatest Game podcast, Zaha was full of praise for the Liverpool star.
“He’s fast, calm, strong. He’s got everything,” he said, per the Liverpool Echo.
“Obviously Rio [Ferdinand] was just composed to the next level, but I feel like Virgil has everything down to a tee.
“Like to the point where he can muck about when a ball comes over the top and flick it around the striker and stuff and he’s fast enough to get back on to it.
— Virgil van Dijk (@VirgilvDijk) January 1, 2021
“When we play against Liverpool it’s like, how am I going to get around this guy?”
Zaha isn’t the only forward who was left impressed by van Dijk’s defensive prowess. So, we’ve compiled some of the best quotes regarding the Dutchman from some of the world’s best forwards.
- Lionel Messi
Messi faced off against van Dijk when Barcelona met Liverpool in the Champions League semi-finals in 2019.
Messi was obviously impressed with his adversary and later spoke about the encounter in an interview with Marca.
“He is a defender who knows how to judge his timing and wait for the right moment to challenge or jockey [the attacker],” said the Argentine.
“He is very fast and big, but he has a lot of agility for his height.
“He is fast because of his great stride, and he is impressive both in defence and attack because he scores lots of goals.”
- Sergio Aguero
Aguero is arguably the greatest Manchester City player of all time and certainly a Premier League legend.
The City record goalscorer has regularly clashed against the former Southampton man and come up short.
“We all know Van Dijk is one of the best centre-backs in the world. He’s strong, tall, has an incredible body,” Aguero told El Chiringuito, per Goal.
“He’s very strong face to face, he plays with his body. Also, given he is so tall, he has those long legs.
“It looks like he isn’t fast but he is, because of his long legs – he can reach everywhere. Two steps from him are 50 for me!
“What I like the most is the way he is so smart when defending. He’s not anxious when marking, he’s very careful and patient. That makes it difficult for many strikers.”
- Erling Haaland
Austrian prodigy Haaland battled with van Dijk when RB Salzburg played Liverpool during the 2019 Champions League group stages.
“He is so good,” Haaland told France Football.
“He is powerful, quick, he possesses all the qualities. He is an incredible player.”
The Norwegian recently picked Van Dijk as one of the three best defenders in the world, per AS.
- Alvaro Morata
Former Chelsea striker Morata also picked Van Dijk as one of the three best defenders in the world in an interview with AS.
His description of the Breda native was an apt summary of the defender’s qualities:
“When you go against Van Dijk, it seems like you hit a mountain!”
Clearly, van Dijk has earned the respect of some of the most potent forwards in the game and it’s little wonder that Liverpool fans can’t wait to see him healthy and back on the pitch.