Conor Masterson believes, aside from being a great defender, his former Liverpool team-mate Virgil van Dijk is one of the world’s greatest players.
Following his club-record €84m transfer in January 2018, Van Dijk’s progress at Liverpool has been outstanding, to say the least.
The Netherlands international was crucial in the Reds’ challenge for Premier League glory last season. His exploits won him the PFA Player of the Year award, and he later capped things off by winning the Champions League.
This led journalists and coaches to vote Van Dijk as the UEFA Player of the Season last month. Although it appears there might be more accolades on their way, with the defender favourite for the Ballon d’Or and FIFA’s The Best.
But Masterson, who played alongside Van Dijk at Anfield for 18 months, isn’t surprised one bit by his old team-mate.
“Virgil van Dijk is one of the best players in the world,” the now-QPR defender told the Liverpool Echo
“You learn so much from him and there’s no disgrace in saying I couldn’t get in [the team] because of him because he is a top player.
“Just training with him, and with Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren, who are all top players, too, you just learn so much.
“You naturally get better and then you can start pushing them, and they see you getting better, and that’s how it works. Liverpool players like that have taught me how to defend and it will stand me in good stead at QPR.
“You learn so much from Virgil van Dijk and the way he does things. It’s the little things – things that people wouldn’t notice on the pitch, but because you’re training with him day in, day out, you learn these things, and you think, ‘ah, that’s what he does, that’s how he makes it look easy’.
“It’s all in the head, and you pick that up when you start training with them, and you learn more because people realise what he actually does at the moment, say, the ball is kicked up long.
“The way he beats the man in the air and makes it look easy because he’s already a step ahead, he’s always jumping earlier, he’s already holding the man waiting to jump.
“It’s little things like that that you wouldn’t know unless you were up close day in, day out on the training pitch. That’s what makes players world-class and, as they say, practice makes perfect.”
Van Dijk helped deliver another clean sheet on Monday night as the Netherlands thrashed Estonia 4-0 in a Euro 2020 qualifier.
The 28-year-old will now head back to Liverpool for Saturday’s home match against Newcastle United in the Premier League.