The “exceptional” Virgil van Dijk is the key behind Liverpool’s success and has become “the kingpin” of Anfield, says Mark Wright.
Van Dijk has become an essential part of the Liverpool line-up since his arrival in January 2018 in a club-record deal of £75m from Southampton.
The 27-year-old’s commanding presence in the Reds’ backline has proven to be a critical factor behind their improved defensive displays. In fact, they even ended up with the Premier League’s best defensive record last season on route to a staggering 97 points.
And Liverpool capped things off in style by defeating Tottenham 2-0 last month to win the Champions League in Madrid.
But the fact that nobody dribbled past Van Dijk was, perhaps, the most impressive stat of all. The Dutchman even recently offered is own theory on why not a single opponent could beat him.
Naturally, Van Dijk’s performances have seen plenty of plaudits come his way. He even beat Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling to the PFA Player of the Year award and is a contender for the Ballon d’Or itself.
Now, Wright has weighed in his own verdict on what makes Van Dijk so special.
“You can talk about his ability in possession and, yes, he can head the ball, he is quick and he can do all the other bits and pieces as well,” the ex-Reds defender told Sky Sports.
“But you don’t come to Liverpool unless you can do those things. The biggest thing that has impressed me is what I see from him when the ball is at the other end of the pitch.
“He dictates. He makes sure people fill those pockets where previously Liverpool were being hurt on the counter-attack. He makes sure others are aware.
“It’s that organisation of others that has made the biggest difference because there aren’t a lot of leaders around but he can do that. Nobody is going to argue with him because Virgil is the kingpin.
“I see him as the key to Liverpool’s success. He is an exceptional player and I really cannot believe it wasn’t more of a battle to get him because there is a dearth of top centre-halves around.
“Look around. Name the top five in the Premier League and I think you would struggle to come up with five. Virgil stands out like a sore thumb, to be honest with you.”