Former Inter Milan and Everton defender Marco Materazzi has omitted Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk from his list when naming the three strongest defenders in world football.
Van Dijk has had a stellar campaign with the Reds and has improved the club’s defensive frailties since arriving from Southampton in January 2018.
Should Van Dijk have made Materazzi’s list ? Five things you need to know…
- Liverpool signed Van Dijk for £75m from Southampton in the January transfer window of 2018.
- Since then the Dutchman has made 58 appearances for the Reds, scoring four goals.
- Van Dijk has been absent for only 35 minutes of Premier League football during the current campaign.
- The defender has won 141 aerial duels this season, the most among his Liverpool team mates.
- The Dutchman is also one of only three outfield players to play at least 1,000 minutes in Europe’s top five leagues without being dribbled past.
The Dutchman has even been mooted to clinch the PFA player of theYear Award at the end of the season, as Liverpool challenge for a first title in 29 years.
As well as being a rock in Jurgen Klopp’s defence, the burly 27-year-old can also make his imperious presence felt at the other end of the pitch, which he did again midweek in the Champions League against Bayern Munich.
However, is conspicuous effect on Liverpool’s fortunes has apparently not registered with Materrazzi, who has other ideas when it comes to judging the world’s best defenders.
“I think that right now, among the strongest centre-backs are [Kalidou] Koulibaly, Sergio Ramos and [Alessio] Romagnoli,” he told Suning PPSports TV, as reported by Calcio Mercato.
Only three outfield players to play at least 1,000 minutes in Europe's top five leagues this season have not been dribbled past by an opponent.
Virgil van Dijk is on the longest unbeaten run. ? pic.twitter.com/oHbtpe35t9
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 15, 2019
There’s no doubt that, despite frequent controversy, Ramos is an outstanding defender and has proved that time-and-time again with Real Madrid.
Napoli’s Koulibaly has also established himself as one of the most solid defenders in the world, with clubs with big cheque books vying for his signature.
Meanwhile, Romagnoli has continued to impress with a resurgent AC Milan this season, and is one of just three outfield players to play at least 1,000 minutes in Europe’s top five leagues without being dribbled past – alongside Van Dijk and Sampdoria’s Omar Colley.
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Ferdinand also favours Ramos
Former Manchester United centre-back Rio Ferdinand also opted for a choice other than Van Dijk as the best defender in the world, though the pundit paid tribute to the Dutchman’s abilities.
“To be considered the best in the world, you have got to win stuff as well. You cannot just play well for your team and sit there as runner-up or coming third or fourth,” Ferdinand told the Mirror.
“That’s why, when people talk about Player of the Year and you see they haven’t won anything but they are the best player, I am thinking: ‘How? You haven’t influenced a team to win things.’
“You need to be part of a team that is winning to be considered like that.
“Virgil is a fantastic player, potentially the best in the world but, right now, no. And I’d think he would agree.”