Rafael van der Vaart reckons Virgil van Dijk is “special”, but he’s still behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the world’s best players.
Van Dijk’s stunning 2018/19 campaign has won him plenty of plaudits after helping Liverpool win the Champions League. He also played a big part in the club’s record tally of 97 points in the Premier League, while flexing his defensive prowess.
In fact, not a single player got past him last season as the Dutchman established his spot among the world’s best.
Beating Messi and Ronaldo to last month’s UEFA Player of the Year prize in Monaco has only strengthened Van Dijk’s reputation. Some people are actually going as far as calling him the best player in the world now.
And the 28-year-old will have a chance to back these claims up after winning a spot in the three-man shortlist for the FIFA’s The Best award. He’s also a strong contender for the 2019 Ballon d’Or.
But Van der Vaart doesn’t believe his compatriot is good enough to be hailed a better player than Messi or Ronaldo.
“He is not the best player in the world, but he is special,” the former Real Madrid and Tottenham star told Tuttomercatoweb.
“Messi and Ronaldo are the best, but you cannot compare defenders and attackers.”
Van der Vaart, meanwhile, also discussed Matthijs de Ligt’s early struggles at Juventus following his €75m transfer from Ajax.
The 20-year-old had a forgettable Serie A debut against Napoli last time out after replacing an injured Giorgio Chiellini in the line-up.
“I would have preferred to see him at Bayern [Munich] or at Barcelona,” added Van der Vaart.
“He has difficulties in this period and it is not easy to compete with Chiellini, even if he is now injured, and [Leonardo] Bonucci. But he is very talented.”