New Liverpool centre-back Ozan Kabak has described Virgil van Dijk as his “idol,” with the 20-year-old looking forward to meeting and working with his new team-mate.
Kabak was officially unveiled as a Reds player on Tuesday night, a day after signing on an initial half-season loan from Schalke.
The Turkey international arrives to plug a gap in Jurgen Klopp‘s defence, and will do so with an eye to convince the manager he is worthy of the £18 million permanent switch option in the club’s deal with his parent club.
Beyond signing with the Premier League champions for the long term, there is added motivation for Kabak to do so – that being to eventually play with his centre-back “idol.”
Two years ago, while still at Galatasaray, the youngster shared a photo on his Instagram page of him holding up a signed Van Dijk shirt, thanking “one of the best central defenders on the planet” for the gift.
Now having joined Liverpool, Kabak was asked about the moment in his first interview with LFCTV, and explained that former team-mate Omer Bayram – a childhood friend of Van Dijk’s – arranged it.
And having joined the same club as Van Dijk, he said he is hoping to meet him “as soon as possible.”
“Virgil van Dijk is, I think, the best centre-back in the world at the moment. The last three or four years he was always on his best performance,” Kabak said.
“He’s strong, he’s good, he’s so fast, he’s clever. So that’s why I see him as an idol.
“I want to meet with him as soon as possible, to be honest.”
It may be a while before Kabak and Van Dijk meet, with the Dutchman currently undergoing rehabilitation work on his season-ending knee injury in Dubai, and the No. 19 is tasked with filling in while his new team-mate is out.
Kabak, who claims Liverpool were his “childhood team,” believes he has the right qualities to slot in and perform in Klopp’s high-intensity system.
“First of all, Liverpool play offensive football and press high; sometimes they leave some space in the back so I think Liverpool centre-backs need to be fast, so I think I suit it in this way,” he explained.
“Also, they like to play and build the game, so you need to have good feet to build up the game. So I think I suit Liverpool very well.”
The Turk describes himself as a “ball-playing centre-back,” who is “physically strong” and “good in the air,” which, despite him being shorter than the likes of Van Dijk and Joel Matip at 6’1″, fits the brief for a Klopp defender.
However, he adds that he will “need to improve a lot” to meet the standard at Anfield, with his first goal being “to get some minutes” – and in the absence of his idol, this may come sooner rather than later.