Markus Babbel has claimed that Liverpool and Netherlands defender Virgil van Dijk ‘isn’t the same player’ since his long-term injury that was sustained at Goodison Park in 2020, as he told Stadium Astro.
That Jordan Pickford tackle left van Dijk on the sidelines for almost a year, including missing the entirety of that season, which was played behind closed doors because of the COVID pandemic.
Since then, the 31-year-old has had an indifferent time in Liverpool colours, even Gary Neville noticed how opposing players are willing to take on the one-time Champions League and Premier League winner now.
But the criticism hasn’t stopped there because, at the Qatar World Cup, a few verbal punches have been thrown at the 6ft4 centre-back, this time from the legendary striker, Marco van Basten, who questioned his leadership.
The Netherlands are through to the knockout stages of the World Cup and will face Australia in the last 16, but former Liverpool defender Babbel thinks van Dijk has had his moments during the tournament.
“Since his bad injury, he’s not the same anymore,” said Babbel. “He doesn’t look the absolute leader in Liverpool, or even here in the national team.
“Yes, he’s a top defender. But he was stronger before the injury. I hope he can find his top, top form, because the Netherlands need him. He is normally one of the best centre-backs in the world.
“At the moment, he is struggling with Liverpool and even in the game against Ecoudar, he didn’t look good.
“Those are harsh words (re van Basten criticism). But truth words.”
VAN DIJK CAN DO HIS TALKING ON THE PITCH
For several years, van Dijk could have claimed to have been the best defender in the business and he proved it time and time again, even if Liverpool didn’t secure the honours because of a dominant Manchester City.
But, one thing is for sure, that tag is now being questioned.
And whilst van Dijk answered back to van Basten, the only thing he can do is talk on the pitch and the World Cup is the biggest stage of them all to do that.