Pundit and ex-England defender Martin Keown has heaped tremendous praise on Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk.
The 27-year-old centre-back helped the Reds record a famous 3-1 away win at Bayern Munich on Wednesday night, as they progressed to the Champions League quarter-finals.
He assisted one of Sadio Mane’s two goals with a delightful long-range pass forward, while he got on the scoresheet himself too with a powerful header.
Van Dijk did miss the first leg against Bayern through injury, but his return made all the difference in the European tie and he continues to be a rock in the defence for the Merseyside club.
Keown believes that the Dutchman’s quality in possession and influence going forward from deep areas is what sets him apart from the rest.
“He has been head and shoulders above the rest all season,” Keown wrote in the Daily Mail. “On Wednesday night, he was perfection personified.
“What sets him apart is that he never thinks, ‘I’m just here to defend.’ He sets an example for every young centre back in the way he is always on the lookout for that killer pass.”
“Liverpool may not have missed the suspended Van Dijk defensively in the first leg at Anfield — they kept a clean sheet — but last night he showed how important his creativity is to this side.”
It will be no surprise to see Van Dijk sweep up the individual awards at the end of the season and it will be a shame if he’s got no silverware to show for a truly magnificent year.
All Liverpool fans know how big an impact he’s had on their defence, as he’s the pivotal reason in turning a shaky backline into a formidable one.
He’s a Rolls-Royce defender that wins everything in the air and is a real leader in the team.
Van Dijk has the range of passing to support the attack and can score goals too, but it’s his overall presence and confidence he installs in the team that is his greatest asset.