Raphael Varane vs Virgil van Dijk – just who is the Premier League’s best? It promises to be one of the big questions this season.
Raphael Varane is a Manchester United player. The Frenchman joins the club for an initial £34m, per the BBC, and we’ve got to call that a bargain.
When you consider Arsenal will reportedly pay £50m for Ben White, it’s hard to say anything else.
Varane’s arrival means one of the game’s most successful centre-backs arrives in the Premier League. And with that comes competition for top dog.
So just who stands tall? Varane or Virgil van Dijk?
Varane vs Van Dijk
All things considered, these two are the game’s biggest centre-backs right now. Sergio Ramos is moving well into his 30s and past his best, with the same said about Thiago Silva.
You do have to mention Ruben Dias, given his season with Manchester City last year. But that’s still just one campaign – he’s still got catching up to do.
But in Van Dijk and Varane, you’ve got two players who have done the lot. In fact, they make for a very interesting comparison.
Now, you can go over exactly what they do on the pitch from a technical viewpoint. But the real point is whether they have contributed to success at the elite level – exactly how they do it isn’t as important.
So let’s look at their respective trophy cabinets.
Van Dijk steals the show with individual awards. He’s won PFA Player of the Year, UEFA Player of the Year, and Premier League Player of the Year. The Dutchman was also runner-up for both the Ballon d’Or and FIFA’s The Best in 2019.
Throw in his numerous Team of the Year awards and Van Dijk stands alone in terms of individual acclaim. Varane made five Teams of the Year in 2018 but that’s his lot.
But on the flip side, Varane’s trophy haul is spectacular and behind only Ramos and Gerard Pique. He’s won La Liga twice and the UEFA Champions League four times as a starting XI player.
Then there’s the World Cup, of course. Van Dijk just can’t match all of that. He doesn’t really come close.
This also does bring about a major difference, however. Varane has had wonderful team success but he’s never been the star in a successful side.
He’s had Ramos next to him throughout his Real Madrid career. The World Cup-winning France side boasted the best talent in the competition.
Van Dijk, on the other hand, came into a struggling Liverpool side and played a huge part in turning them into winners. He slotted straight into a shaky defence and had them in the Champions League final a few months later.
The next two seasons saw Liverpool have the best defence in England. Van Dijk was the biggest part of that.
That, for us, is what makes him the world’s best.
The 30-year-old had a transformative effect on Liverpool that few can match. That led to his individual awards and Van Dijk unquestionably runs the defence at Anfield. On top of being an elite player, he makes the Reds’ defence elite.
Now is Varane’s chance to do the same. He’s the best defender at his club now and, arguably, the best player. Harry Maguire may wear the armband but he’s a level or two below his new teammate.
Can Varane walk the walk as the main man now he’s away from Real? That’s the thing to watch this season. If he wants to match Van Dijk, he’s got to prove that kind of quality.
That sees Van Dijk stand tall in our (admittedly biased) minds.