Football News

‘Criminal’ Van Dijk at fault for Barcelona opener v Liverpool, says Rio Ferdinand

By Harry Edwards

Published: 21:50, 1 May 2019

Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has criticised Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk for his role in Luis Suarez’s opening goal.

Jurgen Klopp’s men travelled to the Nou Camp on Wednesday evening for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final, with the Reds looking to reach the final for the second consecutive season.

But Luis Suarez gave Barcelona the lead in the first half of their Champions League semi-final first leg, after racing onto a wonderful pass from Jordi Alba.

The Uruguayan made his run in between Joel Matip and Van Dijk, with Ferdinand believing the latter was at fault.

“Virgil van Dijk is at fault here,” he said on BT Sport.

“He can see Suarez, he’s pointing where he wants it, it’s not rocket science. He’s right in from of him.

“That’s your man, the number nine on the back of his shirt. Static. Virgil van Dijk there, static. And that’s criminal in that position.

“He’s got to be Matip’s eyes and ears, move Matip where you want him to stop the ball in the first instance. But if not, you have to go with your man there. And he’ll be disappointed with that I’m sure.”

And Ferdinand’s thoughts were echoed by Robbie Savage, who told BBC Five Live: “You have to questions Van Dijk.

“He sees the run of Luis Suarez. He anticipated the ball. Matip can’t see Suarez, he’s behind him. Van Dijk is at fault for that goal.”

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Van Dijk goes from world’s best centre half to ‘criminal’

Despite Van Dijk’s first-half error, the Dutchman was still the recipient of high praise from Ferdinand.

The Dutch international signed for Liverpool for £75m from Southampton in January 2018 – a world-record fee for a defender.

Immediately after arrival, Van Djik transformed the Reds’ defence under Jurgen Klopp’s guidance, helping them reach last season’s Champions League final.

And that has continued into the current campaign with Liverpool one point behind Premier League leaders Manchester City with two games to go and into the Champions League semi-finals once more.

For his part, helping to keep 19 Premier League clean sheets so far, Van Dijk was named as PFA Players’ Player of the Year on Sunday by his fellow professionals. And Ferdinand believes it would have been hard to argue otherwise.

“He’s been their best signing, easily,” he told BT Sport.

“You could not argue with him winning the Player of the Year. I think that he’s been an immense player and every great team, their foundation is from the back and he is that.

“Liverpool have been crying out for that.”

Ferdinand then went on to explain the influence a player of Van Dijk’s stature has on his team-mates, before dubbing him the “undoubtedly” best centre-back on the planet.

He added: “He’s the best centre half they’ve had since Alan Hansen and if they’re going to win, a lot of it’s going to be down to him performing today.

“What I love about him is he makes others play better. He gives others confidence, from the goalkeeper to the full-backs beside him, the young boys next to him.

“And that exudes through the team and great players make other players feel comfortable and play better.

“I think there’s no doubt that he is the best centre half on the planet right now. Undoubtedly.”

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