Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk has been crowned this season’s PFA Player of the Year, becoming the first defender since John Terry more than ten years ago. But how did he beat the likes of Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero, Eden Hazard, Sadio Mane and Bernardo Silva? Here’s why. Bet on the Premier league here.
When Liverpool made Virgil Van Dijk the world’s most expensive defenders, rival fans and pundits spoke in muted tones about how the Dutchman was a huge risk. They had rights to voice their skepticism given Liverpool have seen expensive purchases flop at Anfield in recent years. Fast forward 15 months and the 27-year-old defender is the PFA Player of the Year.
The Dutch centre-back snatched the prestigious award ahead of Sadio Mane, Manchester City trio Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling and Chelsea's Eden Hazard, making it even more impressive. He became only the sixth defender to be crowned the PFA Players' Player of the Year in the award's history.
Van Dijk has featured in every Premier League match this season and has been an influential figure in their team’s run to the Champions League semi-final.
The tall, sturdy defender has been worth every penny of the £75m paid for him. The Liverpool defence, which was the subject of never-ending derision from the media and fans before his arrival, became more solid. Apart from growing to be a world class defender, Van Dijk is now a leader for the Reds team, whose back four consists of budding players like Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez.
It’s difficult to think of a player who has had such an impact on a team like Van Dijk since the likes of Eric Cantona in his Manchester United days. Although Sterling is having a terrific season for Manchester City, Van Dijk has had more impact on Liverpool than Sterling has for City.
While the likes of Dejan Lovren would produce error-prone performances in crucial matches, Van Dijk is more reliable to the team, which ultimately allows Jurgen Klopp to approach the game with his high press style. Although some would argue that such awards should be given to attackers since they make a much bigger difference on a regular basis, the 27-year-old disproves this. His contribution to Divock Origi’s last gasp match winner is a testament to that.
The Reds were so close to winning the league in 2013/2014 and conceded 50 goals. They went on to concede 48 the next season, then 50 goals again. This season, although they might not win the league, they have improved massively this season and have conceded only 20 goals, the best defence in the league.
He is definitely future captain material for the Reds and if they are to win a title this season, whether the league or the Champions League, he will be the most influential player, not only because of his defensive qualities but for the leadership on the pitch for this Liverpool team.
Liverpool is a championship winning team with the Dutchman in it. Although it might be too early to call him the best defender in the world, Van Dijk is the PFA Player of the Year and might not be far off from that title.