Rarely has one player defined a team, but Virgil van Dijk’s calm assurance at the back for Liverpool has done just that.
Since the Dutchman joined Jurgen Klopp’s outfit, they’ve looked almost unstoppable, but former Chelsea man, Michael Ballack, believes he’s lucky not to have been playing in a time when Didier Drogba was in his pomp.
“Virgil van Dijk is very lucky to play in an era where there is no [Didier] Drogba, [Frank] Lampard, Alan Shearer, [Thierry] Henry, [Wayne] Rooney, [Robin] Van Persie, [Carlos] Tevez, [Emmanuel] Adebayor and Diego Costa in the Premier League,” Ballack said, according to the Daily Mirror.
“No wonder they think he is the best defender in the league.”
That provoked a furious response from Steve Nicol, who took Ballack to task for what he saw as ill-informed comments.
“Well I’m interested to know which part of his game he’s not happy with because if you’re looking for a physical battle, are you telling me that Van Dijk couldn’t beat anybody up physically? Even Drogba?” the former Red said in response on ESPN,cited by the Daily Mirror.
“It would be great to watch but don’t tell me that Drogba would walk all over him physically.
“Pace-wise I don’t remember seeing anybody, whether it’s the Premier League or the Champions League, running past this guy. So that’s not a problem.
“Can he pass the ball? Yes, he can pass the ball. I’d love to know which part of van Dijk’s game he thinks would be susceptible to any of these strikers that he was talking about.”
Although van Dijk’s form, and Liverpool’s collectively, tailed off a little pre-lockdown, the fact that they were, and are, so far ahead of any other team in the Premier League is as much down to the centre-back as anyone else.
Ballack’s outburst appears to be nothing other than sour grapes on the face of it, and the controversial nature of his comments are perhaps designed to keep his own name in the media.
It’s not something that van Dijk needs to lose any sleep over, that’s for sure.