Michail Antonio has admitted that ‘everyone’ says Virgil van Dijk is the toughest defender they’ve played against – and he agrees.
The West Ham United forward was asked to name the hardest opposition he’s faced on The Footballer’s Football Podcast. And although he says it’s an obvious choice, Antonio had to go with the Liverpool centre-back.
“Virgil. 100%, He has it all,” said the 32-year-old. “Everyone says it to be fair. Pace, strong, good on the ball, always in the right position. He’s definitely the hardest I have played against.”
There’s an obvious reason everyone says it – because it’s true. No matter some of the struggles he’s had this season, who is there better than Van Dijk?
Van Dijk still one of the very best around
As Liverpool have lurched horribly through a difficult season, Van Dijk has been one of the players most under the microscope.
That’s understandable really. Few in the Reds squad have typified the team’s relentless nature of recent years like the Dutchman.
From his signing in 2018 up until his injury in 2020, Van Dijk was absolutely imperious. Seemingly untouchable on the pitch, it was one of the most impressive runs of form in Premier League history.
That form took him so close to beating the great Lionel Messi to the Ballon d’Or in 2019. In terms of a defender beating Messi, that’s unheard of before or since.
So, it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear Antonio plump for Liverpool’s No.4 for this particular title.
As he continues into his thirties, someone will surely claim his crown soon. Some would say they already have. But for now, Virgil remains the best in the business.
It hasn’t always looked like that this season, but there have been mitigating factors. Rarely able to call on a stable partner, Van Dijk has also been much more exposed by a porous midfield. Hopefully with one or two additions in the summer, the 31-year-old will return to his best next season.
Part of the reason forwards hate playing against Van Dijk is because of the aura of invincibility that he has. That has slipped this season, but he and Liverpool will be back.
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