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Hughton: Van Dijk is as good as the league's greatest


Hughton: Admires Virgil van Dijk. Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Hughton: Admires Virgil van Dijk. Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Getty Images

Hughton: Admires Virgil van Dijk. Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Virgil van Dijk's performances for Liverpool put him on par with the finest centre-backs in Premier League history, according to Brighton boss Chris Hughton.

But Hughton believes the Netherlands international must sustain his form over a longer period of time to cement a place among the division's all-time greats.

Van Dijk - a one-time transfer target for Albion - has helped transform Jurgen Klopp's Reds into genuine title contenders following a £75m move from Southampton last January.

The 27-year-old visits the Amex Stadium tomorrow with the table-topping Merseyside club bidding to increase their four-point lead over champions Manchester City.

Asked if Van Dijk deserves to be talked about in the same breath as the likes of John Terry, Sol Campbell and Rio Ferdinand, Hughton replied: "Is he that level of player? Yes, of course, I've no doubt he is when you look at the qualities he's got.

"The other players we've mentioned have done it over a long period. If you're asking me if he's at their level as a player, then the answer is yes.

"But if you're talking about an influence on our game and the history they have, then of course they've done it for a longer time and he hasn't."

Brighton - then managed by Gus Poyet - attempted to sign Van Dijk from Dutch club Groningen in January 2013, seeing two bids rejected.

The player joined Celtic in the summer of that year and, after moving on to St Mary's for a reported £13m in September 2015, increased his value significantly before arriving at Anfield.

Albion's success in establishing themselves in the top flight owes a lot to their own defensive solidity, built on the reliable centre-back partnership of Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy.

Seagulls vice-captain Dunk became an England international in November, while Ireland defender Duffy has also regularly attracted praise.

Hughton says the "outstanding" pair are vital members of his team and feels they can improve further by watching Van Dijk.

"What Van Dijk is to Liverpool, that's what our two are to us," said Hughton.

"The two we have will look at the best around where they can learn from, what they can pick up from."

Irish Independent