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'Wasn't world class': BBC pundit says Klopp has totally transformed Liverpool player, he's now 'very special'

BBC pundit Garth Crooks has claimed that Jurgen Klopp has transformed Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk into the best defender in the world.

Selecting Van Dijk in his Team of the Season for BBC Sport, Crooks said that the Liverpool player wasn’t world class when he joined the club in 2018.

“He looks immaculate on the pitch and plays in the same manner. He is without doubt the best defender on the planet – and without him, Liverpool wouldn’t have had anywhere near the success they have had,” said the pundit.

“But that is part of the genius of Jurgen Klopp. Having the ability to spot what your team need, and when they need it, is a key element of management. It also has to be said that Van Dijk wasn’t world class when he arrived at Anfield but under the careful stewardship of Klopp and his coaching staff, he has turned into something very special.”

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Crooks also included Liverpool’s Alisson Becker, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mane in his team.

Don’t call it a comeback

It’s probably true that Van Dijk wasn’t a world class player when he joined Liverpool for £75m. With all due respect, he was playing for Southampton after all.

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Liverpool recognised just how good he could be though, and while some baulked at the fee, he has more than paid it off.

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Virgil’s comeback season has been something very special indeed. The 30-year-old has played 50 games for The Reds as they have pushed all the way for a magnificent quadruple.

That wasn’t to be in the end. But if they are to complete a brilliant treble next weekend in Paris, they will need another big performance from their number 4. They just aren’t the same when he doesn’t play.

Last time Liverpool reached this stage, Van Dijk duly collected the Man of the Match award. That led to a second-placing at that year’s Ballon d’Or.

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When the voting comes around for that particular award this year, he’s unlikely to be among the front-runners. From a Liverpool point of view though, he certainly should be. The Reds have had a ridiculously good season, and the Dutch national captain has been one of the standout reasons for that.

Whether Liverpool do end up lifting Ol’ Big Ears for a seventh time this weekend, it’ll make no difference to Van Dijk’s standing in the game. He’s far and away the best defender around, anyone still doubting that must simply be watching a different sport.

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