Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has claimed that Virgil Van Dijk is the key player for Liverpool.

Tuchel was speaking to Football.London after his side drew 1-1 with Leicester City last night to confirm third place.

The German claimed that as Liverpool aren’t the same team without Van Dijk, the same can be said for his team without N’Golo Kante.

“He (Kante) is our Mo Salah, he is our Van Dijk, he is our De Bruyne, he is simply that player,” said Tuchel.

“It puts everything into perspective as I saw Liverpool without Van Dijk last season, and they struggled heavily. You see the difference. N’Golo is our key player, and we need him on the pitch.”

Liverpool aren't the same team
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

The difference is that Liverpool were missing Van Dijk for almost the full season last time around. Despite that, they still finished ahead of Chelsea. Meanwhile, Kante has played 25 Premier League games in 2021/22, starting 20 of them. Sounds like excuses to me!

The best defender in the world

Tuchel is not alone in thinking Van Dijk is Jurgen Klopp’s key man for Liverpool. After they beat Southampton on Tuesday, Jamie Redknapp claimed that the 30-year-old is the most important player, too.

He also claimed Van Dijk should be the highest paid player at the club. According to Spotrac, he already is, earning £220k-a-week.

If you compare last season without Virgil and this season with him, that looks like a fair assessment.

Liverpool aren't the same team
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

There were other mitigating factors last season. Obviously there were no fans for a start, and Van Dijk wasn’t the only one injured either.

But the difference he instantly made to Liverpool when returning was clear.

He has been majestic since the turn of the year. Liverpool supporters will be desperately hoping that the knock which saw him come off in the FA Cup final will not rule him out of next week’s Champions League showpiece.

Liverpool aren't the same team
Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

If it does, Liverpool’s chances of winning a seventh European Cup will take a battering. They can still win without him, they showed that on Tuesday, but he is the best defender in the world, of course they’re going to miss him.

Thankfully, the news looks positive. It would be a surprise if Van Dijk were not to be ready for a week on Saturday.

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