Following the £75 million signing from Southampton FC in 2018, Virgil van Dijk has taken Liverpool’s defence from being a disaster to arguably the best in the world. He has also earned himself a place on the list of top defenders in the world. But the question remains: Is Virgil van Dijk overrated?
Overrated Or Best Defender in Football?
Popularly called “Big Virj,” the Breda-born centre back seems to have improved every player who has played alongside him. Liverpool fans boast he played vital roles in revitalising Joel Matip’s career and making Dejan Lovren look amazing.
In an interview, VVD was asked about his opinion on being regarded as “the best defender in the world”: “It’s nice to hear these opinions but they are opinions.” said Virgil. “I’m really happy to be seen as one of the best in some people’s eyes. It makes me proud.”
However, there have been questions as to whether he is worth being regarded as one of the best centre backs in football history. Since joining the Merseyside club in 2018, Virgil has led his team to domestic and European victories. Totalling a number of six trophies for Liverpool in a span of five years, he is the most decorated defender in EPL since joining Liverpool. However, some question if he has performed up to the standards of past world class centre backs in Europe.
Comparisons have been made between him and Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. These players have proven to be bigger as they have played on the biggest stages and performed on the biggest stages.
These accolades are not an attempt to take credit from Virgil; however, these other legends have proven to be better players. Nemanja Vidic won fifteen trophies in his nine-year stay stint at Manchester United, and Rio Ferdinand won fourteen trophies in his twelve-year spell at United. These players have produced one of the biggest performances for both club and country.
Stating that Virgil is better than these legends would be a fallacy. Virgil, however, finished second in the 2019 Balon D’or rankings, only behind Lionel Messi after Liverpool won the Champions League. This is a feat no defender has ever reached since Italian centre back Fabio Cannavaro won the award in November 2006. These achievements solidify his place as one of the best defenders of his generation.
Congratulations to Virgil Van Dijk on finishing second in the Ballon D’Or.
Best defender in the world. pic.twitter.com/SMferEmn8h
— Anfield Edition (@AnfieldEdition) December 2, 2019
However, Ferdinand has 189 clean sheets in 504 PL appearances with a wide gap in appearances, averaging 0.4 GA p/g (180 goals). VVD has 82 clean sheets in 196 PL appearances, averaging 0.8 GA p/g(174 goals). These stats are ridiculous as VVD has conceded almost the same number of goals in lesser appearances. Is he then worth the tag?
Following Virgil’s ACL injury and many other Liverpool players being sidelined due to injury, Liverpool had a tough 2020/2021 season. However, on his return, the presence of the big Dutch centre back impacted the team. Liverpool gave Manchester City a chase for the bag in the just concluded 2021/2022 Premier League season. They also displayed dominant performance in the UEFA Champions League. Unlike the previous season, where they struggled to maintain a spot in the top four positions of the PL.
There is a list of many other centre backs that have proven to be the best defenders in the world; former England player John Terry, Spain’s Sergio Ramos, Dutchman Ronald Koeman, Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini, Jerome Boateng, and many others.
The impact of social media and the press has majorly contributed to the hype attached to Virgil van Dijk’s name.
I love my club!
— Virgil van Dijk (@VirgilvDijk) May 29, 2022
Truth be told, Virgil van Dijk plays a major role in reinstating Liverpool’s prestige in Europe. He definitely deserves his accolades, but he is yet to be deserving of the tag of “the best defender in the world.”