LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 03: Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool reacts during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at Emirates Stadium on November 3, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Liverpool great John Barnes believes Virgil van Dijk can win the 2018/19 PFA Player of the Year prize if he continues his brilliant performances

A year on after completing a record £75m transfer for a defender from Southampton,  Van Dijk has well and truly established himself in the Liverpool team.

The Netherlands captain’s aerial prowess, tactical awareness and leadership skills have proved to be an invaluable asset for the Liverpool defence this season with just 13 goals conceded in their 23 Premier League games.

This has helped the Reds build a four-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the standings as they chase a first league crown since 1990.

And Barnes, who was a member of the team that won the English first division title nearly 29 years ago, believes Van Dijk will hold a serious claim for the PFA award if Liverpool win the Premier League.

“If he plays the way he does and Liverpool win the league [he could win the PFA award],” Barnes told The Sport Review.

“We may not win the league but he can still do that if he continues to play the way he is playing and have the effect that he has. But it’s only halfway through [the season].

“If Liverpool lose the next 10 games and we lose 5-0, he’s not going to. He has a chance – and he has had a fantastic first half of the season.”

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The Jamaican-born winger, who retired from football in 1999, isn’t surprised by how well Van Dijk has done at Anfield.

“He hasn’t taken me by surprise because I know the quality he has but I didn’t expect him to have such a big impact on the team,” added Barnes.

“He has helped them get the best defensive record. Alisson has helped that. A centre-half and a goalkeeper is a spine of a team.

“Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson and even Dejan Lovren are all doing better once they had a commanding centre-half alongside them.

“It is the obvious impact he has had on the defence.”

Former Reds defender Gary Gillespie is even tipping the Dutchman to become one of the Premier League’s greatest ever centre-backs.

Van Dijk, who has started in all 23 of Liverpool’s league games this term, will be back in action against Leicester City at Anfield on January 30.