Kopites are well aware that Virgil van Dijk is the best defender in the world but it is teammates that prove it. The form of every defender that has lined up alongside him is evidence of the Dutchman’s greatness.
Before the arrival of Big Virg, the Reds defence was unreliable, disorganised and holding back a lethal attacking force. In January 2018, Virgil van Dijk joined Liverpool for a world record £75m fee. The rest is history.
The former Southampton defender immediately provided a calming influence to the Reds’ rearguard and he endeared himself to the Kop with a winning goal against Everton on his debut.
Since then he has contested in two Champions League finals and won the second, the first would have been a different affair had Alisson Becker arrived a season earlier.
During his time in the heart of the Liverpool defence, the Dutchman has had three different partners: Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren. Every man that has lined up with him has looked a better player for it.
Joe Gomez was a raw talent before the arrival of Virgil. A few months playing alongside the 32 cap international and Gomez was looking like one of the best pound for pound centre backs out there.
An unfortunate leg break for the England defender handed an opportunity to Joel Matip. The Cameroonian was transformed from a nervous free transfer to a bargain buy world beater. From January 2019, Matip was a regular alongside Van Dijk, the ex-Schalke man became the most improved player in Europe over the course of nine months.
With Matip now out of the side with injury, another chance has been handed to Dejan Lovren. Whilst the Croatian’s talent was never in doubt, he had been error prone at Liverpool, often lacking concentration. In recent weeks Lovren has played the best football we’ve seen from him.
Virgil van Dijk is the best in the world not just because of his own ability but because he improves the players around him. He gets the best out of his partners and that sets him apart from the rest.