Claude Puel insists Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk has “all of the qualities” to develop into one of the best defenders in the world.
The Dutchman produced a dynamic display at the heart of the Saints backline against Inter Milan in the Europa League on Thursday night, scoring a fine goal during the second half as Puel’s side came from behind to secure a memorable 2-1 victory.
The 25-year-old former Celtic man has been called up again for the Netherlands over the international break.
Puel is in no doubt what Van Dijk can go on to achieve.
“I think Virgil, since the beginning of the season has made progress,” the Southampton manager said at a press conference ahead of Sunday’s Premier League trip to Hull.
“Virgil has improved both technically and tactically as well, in the duel he is fantastic.
“For me, he has all of the qualities to become one of the best defenders in the world, there is no problem for this, Virgil has the answer – he must continue his work to continue his progress.”
Puel added: “It has been a new thing for him this season to defend with 50 or 60 metres behind him, and it is difficult to leave that space.
“For me, it is important to defend at a high level, especially when we play against a great team with strikers who are very fast, it is important to be able to anticipate all of the possibilities of the opponent.”
Saints head to the KCOM Stadium looking to recover from last weekend’s home defeat by Chelsea and remain in the top half of the Premier League table before the international break.
Puel again rotated his squad for their midweek European tie, but is in no doubt of what will be needed when the players kick off against a Hull side scrapping for points after a six-match losing run.
“Now we have to forget the game against Inter Milan, because this match is another important one for us at Hull,” the Southampton manager said on the club’s official website.
“We have to make good concentration in this game, because in the Premier League we need the points.
“It is always difficult to play a league game just three days after a European match, and for this club and these players, it is all new.
“We have to have the right reaction and attitude.”
Puel continued: “Hull are a good team and try to play good football, they did not have all the time the results, but on the pitch they are a good team.
“It is always difficult to play against these teams who need the points, but for us it is the same thing.
“It is important after our loss against Chelsea to come back in the Premier League, and just before the international break, we must give a good answer.”