Sport Soccer

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Richard Dunne: 'Van Dijk is on his way to becoming the best defender in the world but he needs to win trophies'

Win away to Bayern bodes well for rest of the season for Liverpool in their pursuit of titles

Virgil van Dijk, left, has excelled for Liverpool (Nigel French/PA)
Virgil van Dijk, left, has excelled for Liverpool (Nigel French/PA)
Richard Dunne

Richard Dunne

Virgil Van Dijk showed his value, again, to Liverpool this week with his display in the Champions League.

He has been outstanding since he went there - he is the perfect shape and size for a centre back, he is athletic, he wins headers and makes tackles, he’s a good passer of the ball and he scores goals.

What I really like about him is his ability to really command a defence, he’s very imposing and he has helped the whole team settle down, they don’t like as fragile as they might have been before and a lot of that emanates from Van Dijk.

Is the best the defender in the world right now? Not yet.

He can be, but you need to win things, major things to be considered as one of the greats. If he helps Holland to qualify for a major tournament and do well there, if he helps Liverpool win the Champions League then he can be looked on as one of the top players in the world.

He is on his way to becoming the best defender in the world, but I agree with Rio Ferdinand when he said you need to win things to be seen as a great.

Van Dijk is not a million miles away from starting to win Premier League medals, maybe a Champions League as well but he, and the team, need to get there.

People have had doubts about Liverpool at various stages this season, going back to last season, and maybe nights like Wednesday, when they go to Germany and beat Bayern Munich, will dispel those doubts.

They did well to beat Bayern, even though this Bayern side is not a patch on their great teams of the past, they just don’t have the quality you’d expect from Bayern, but Munich is still a tough place to go and get a result.

Liverpool performed really well in the game, they managed the game really well. I have been concerned for the last while about the fact that their forwards were not scoring goals, or enough goals to get them over the line in the two competitions, but Mane showed in Munich that he has the ability to do that.

And that bodes well for Liverpool for the rest of the season, the fact that they went to Germany, scored three times and won the game will breed confidence for the games they have to come, and it should push them on even more in the Premier League, to stay in that race and not give up on the title.

The vital thing for Liverpool now is to make sure they don’t fall away in the Premier League because Europe has gone well, they can’t just wait for Manchester City to slip up (and it could be very interesting when the Manchester derby comes along in a few weeks), Liverpool need to go on and win their own games.

Liverpool can’t worry about City, the way Pep Guardiola has them playing now you’d expect them to keep winning and winning, so there could only be a point in it very close to the end.

Watching Manchester City right now, they look relentless, you see them scoring seven in the knockout stages of the Champions League and that’s a sign of a team who are just ruthless.

Every player in that squad wants to win as many trophies as possible, every player wants to score in every game, that is a real sign of hunger and desire and that counts. It’s a great team to watch, and as a former City player I can only imagine what it would be like to play in that City side.

Even when squad players come in they look so hungry to impress the manager.

They score a lot, they don’t concede many, I think they have only conceded eight goals since the turn of the year, so they are on top form.

Liverpool have had a good season so far but they need to keep that pressure up and be ready if City do slip up.

The Champions League will be fascinating if the English teams are kept apart until the semi-finals as one of the Premier League sides has a very good chance of winning it, Tottenham winning well over two legs against Borussia Dortmund was impressive.

And winning the Champions League is vital for the long-term future. There will be no talk about Van Dijk leaving for £150million or whatever figure you hear if Liverpool do go on and win the Champions League. That’s how you keep your best players, you win big trophies and winning the Premier League or Champions League would guarantee that Van Dijk won’t leave and they can build a strong team around him into the future.

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