Virgil van Dijk has earned huge praise from the watching media after Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Wolves, following his latest immaculate showing.
The Reds have confirmed their place as the Premier League‘s top team at Christmas, having produced a strong performance at Molineux.
On a soaking wet night, away to a talented, well-drilled opponent, Jurgen Klopp‘s side dug deep and made it 48 points from a possible 54 this season.
To be unbeaten in the league at this point is a staggering effort and one player is the main catalyst behind it.
Van Dijk scored Liverpool’s second goal against Wolves – Mohamed Salah had earlier opened the scoring – but it was his all-round display that caught the eye.
The Dutchman enjoyed a 92 per cent pass accuracy, won 100 per cent of his aerial duels, made five clearances and even matched the Usain Bolt-like Adama Traore for pace at one point.
He was rightly given the Man of the Match award after the game, as the Reds secured an eighth away league win out of 10 in 2018/19.
There is already an argument to say that Van Dijk is Liverpool’s best centre-back since the Premier League‘s inception, although Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher clearly have silverware over him.
It wasn’t just supporters lauding the 27-year-old, with a host of stellar names giving him richly deserved adoration.
Carragher himself couldn’t hide his admiration for him, saying his mere presence improves others…
“He makes other people play better around him.
“That’s always a great sign for a centre-back. Tony Adams was the same at Arsenal, when he made his back four look better than they were.
“It’s not just his physical attributes it’s his decision making as well.
“No centre-back wants to be in that position, someone running at you out wide, you’ve got no full-back, to cover. But he dealt with it so well in the first half against Traore.
“He was clever in the first half. He realised he couldn’t knock Traore out the way and Traore had more pace than him, so he shepherded him to one side and made it difficult to shoot.
“Then he’s up against Jimenez, who he knows hasn’t got the strength or the pace, that’s when he comes across, knocks him out the way and takes the ball off him.”
"Just behind Carra…"@GNev2 asks Kenny Dalglish where he rates Virgil van Dijk among Liverpool's best ever centre backs.
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) December 21, 2018
Before kick-off, Reds legend Kenny Dalglish discussed his impact since arriving…
“Virgil came in at a very important time, stamped his authority on it.
“He’s a great presence and he’s really produced the goods since he’s come in in January. It might have been a lot of money but they got £140m for [Philippe] Coutinho.
“They went out and spent some on Virgil, some on the goalkeeper – by the way, two great signings.”
Klopp was typically keen not to focus solely on one player, but did still praise Van Dijk…
“Dejan (Lovren) played again after not having a perfect pre-season, now having game after game, it’s all good. Without that, we don’t have a chance.
“The win was deserved and Virgil played a proper part in that.”
We’ll leave the final say to Van Dijk himself, who admitted to playing with a cold…
“It feels amazing (to score). It was a bit of a tough day for me as I had a bit of a cold so wasn’t 100%.
“These nights are very important for us. We got the win and it’s a big step for us.
“The win was very important today. Wolves are very good, they’ve shown it all season. We lost the ball too easily in the first half, especially in the middle, and they did well.
“Credit to them but we won the game and that’s always the most important thing.”
There is surely no better centre-back in world football on current form, with Van Dijk imperious in all facets of his game.
He is outstanding on the ball, monstrous in the air, lightning quick and possessing the leadership of someone who will surely be Jordan Henderson‘s eventual replacement as Liverpool captain.
No player has been more influential to their team this season and he has to be considered the first name on Klopp’s team-sheet.