If Liverpool do indeed go on to win the league title this season, their first of the Premier League era, their first since 1990, they’ll surely look back at January 2018 as a point upon which everything pivoted. That was when they signed Virgil Van Dijk. At the time, £75 million seemed a high price to pay for the Southampton defender. Now, it’s looks to be one of the shrewdest signings Liverpool have ever made.

The arrival of Van Dijk could well go down in Liverpool folklore if Jurgen Klopp’s side go all the way this season. Before the Dutchman’s signing, the Reds were defensively suspect. The brilliance of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah made them the Premier League’s most exhilarating attacking outfit, but at the back they were vulnerable, to say the least.

Since then, Van Dijk has become figurehead of the best defence in the Premier League. The eye of a football fan is naturally drawn to strikers and attackers, the ones who grab the glory. The ones who make the headlines. However, Van Dijk deserves recognition for what he has achieved this season. He should be considered the frontrunner for Player of the Year.

Liverpool’s defensive record is the best in the Premier League this season, conceding just seven goals in 18 games. That, of course, is down to more than just Van Dijk. The addition of Alisson Becker has addressed a problem area, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson’s rapid development continuing. Then there’s Joe Gomez, who now holds a claim to being England’s best young centre back at present.

But Van Dijk is a level above. He’s a level above anyone else in his position in the Premier League. For years, it has been bemoaned in footballing circles that the game no long produces top class central defenders, but Van Dijk looks set to join the ranks of Rio Ferdinand, Jaap Stam and John Terry as a stalwart of the Premier League age.

Some argue that Liverpool aren’t as dynamic, as exciting as they were last season. There might be some weight to that point. However, Liverpool are now a more complete side, a more balanced outfit. The kind of team that could, feasibly, go on to win a Premier League title. And Van Dijk has done more to balance them than anyone else.

Vincent Kompany was the last defender to win the Premier League Player of the Season award back in 2012, with Terry the last defender to win the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award all the way back in 2005. Defenders don’t often get the credit they deserve, but defenders don’t often make the impact that Van Dijk has over the past year.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

Join the discussion