Virgil van Dijk has largely been imperious since signing for Liverpool five years ago, but ex-Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand doesn’t think that he can put himself amongst the greatest ever centre-backs.
Rio Ferdinand has argued that Virgil van Dijk’s rough season for Liverpool means he falls short compared to some of football’s greatest ever centre-backs.
Ex-Manchester United defender Ferdinand, who’s considered to be one of the Premier League’s best-ever centre-backs, reckons that the likes of John Terry, Nemanja Vidic and Vincent Kompany never went through such a rocky period as what Van Dijk is currently enduring, with his Liverpool team-mates also going through a torrid campaign.
Before the Reds’ limp 1-0 defeat away to Real Madrid on Wednesday – which saw them crash out of the Champions League, losing 6-2 on aggregate – Ferdinand told BT Sport: “There are phases in your career when things don’t go to plan. But you look at great centre-halves like Vidic, Kompany, [Sol] Campbell, Terry, Jaap Stam they don’t have a season off or big periods like eight to nine games off.
The form of the team plays a part though and it does have an impact and sometimes you’re as good as team around you. He hasn’t had the team performing in the way that suits his style of play.”
Former Liverpool striker Michael Owen then attempted to explain Van Dijk’s ongoing woes, as he was also shown up for Karim Benzema’s late sealer on Wednesday, concluding that the Reds’ midfield issues have led to the 31-year-old being exposed. “When Liverpool are playing well you don’t have much to do (as a defender), they win the ball at the front,” Owen added pre-match.
“The problem is they leave themselves exposed (at the moment) so it’s a difficult position to play in if your team isn’t functioning well. It’s difficult at the moment because he’s getting exposed in one-vs-ones. If they are playing well you don’t even notice him and he just mops up everything.
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Last May, however, Owen claimed that Van Dijk was “the best centre-back of all-time” after Liverpool reached the final of the Champions League – which they’d go on to lose to chief tormenters Real Madrid. “He probably scored a few more goals [than other contenders], not much, but we’re talking about the greatest here,” he affirmed to the bemusement of fellow pundit Ferdinand.
“As I’ve said, Rio was the best centre-half I ever played with. But with Van Dijk, as a centre-forward I look at him and think: what do you do against him? He’s bigger than everyone, he’s faster than everyone, he’s stronger than everyone, he’s brilliant on the ball, he scores goals. I’ve never seen anything like it.”