Former World Cup winner and Serie A Footballer of the Year, Franco Baresi, has pinned Liverpool’s “huge” growth down to Virgil van Dijk.
The Dutch centre-back has been imperious since joining the Reds from Southampton in January 2018 and is now widely regarded as the best defender in world football.
Is Liverpool’s growth down to Van Dijk? Five key things to know…
- Prior to joining Liverpool in January 2018 the club were conceding 1.14 goals per game but averaged just 0.8 after his arrival in the 2017/18 season.
- This term Liverpool have conceded the fewest number of PL goals (18), three less than Man City (21).
- Van Dijk has been central to that as no defender has kept more clean sheets than the Dutchman (16).
- He has also made more successful passes (2213) than any defender in the league this campaign.
- As such, Baresi believes Liverpool’s rapid development has been down to the defensive exploits of Van Dijk.
That view has now been echoed by Baresi, who has placed the mountainous defender alongside another of his nation’s emerging stars, Matthijs de Ligt, in the upper echelons of world-class centre-backs.
Baresi, who won six Serie A titles and three European trophies with the Rossoneri, is often considered the greatest defender of all time himself, and he believes Liverpool would not be where they currently are were it not for Van Dijk.
When asked to compare the modern-day stars to leading figures of his era, Baresi told AFP: “It is difficult to make comparisons.
“I like Van Dijk and De Ligt, they are both very strong and very athletic.
“Liverpool have grown hugely as a team recently and a lot of that is thanks to Van Dijk.”
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Lescott: Van Dijk wouldn’t get in the Man City team
Despite Jurgen Klopp’s side conceding just 18 goals in 31 Premier League outings, former Man City defender Joleon Lescott believes Pep Guardiola has enough firepower in his defensive ranks.
The 36-year-old highlighted the importance of Aymeric Laporte who he believes is operating on a similar level to that of Van Dijk, suggesting no Liverpool player would get in the City defence.
“Both Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp will each be happy with their own team and their players suit their styles of football,” Lescott told talkSport.
“I’m not sure I’d take a single one of Liverpool’s players for Man City’s team, but it’s fair to say both have put together great squads.
“From a Man City perspective, I have been very impressed with Aymeric Laporte this season, who has arguably made a similar impact to what Virgil van Dijk has at Liverpool.”