Jurgen Klopp labelled a current Liverpool star the best in the world in his position, and referenced two Manchester United icons when claiming every great player endures down periods.
Liverpool boast a plethora of stars who can stake a claim to being among the best in the world in their role. Alisson Becker is widely viewed as the best goalkeeper playing the game right now. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s impact going forward from right-back is unparalleled, though his defensive deficiencies are a clear drawback.
Virgil van Dijk looks back to his dominant best after a down year in 2022/23. Elsewhere, few wingers in world football provide the goals output Mohamed Salah does year after year.
When speaking in a press conference on Friday, Klopp was asked about Van Dijk in particular.
The Dutchman infamously suffered a serious knee injury when hacked down by Jordan Pickford during the 2020/21 season.
Van Dijk quickly re-established himself as a truly elite centre-half when returning the following season. Many forget the major part Van Dijk played in taking Liverpool within two games of the quadruple in 2021/22.
His standards noticeably dipped in 2022/23, though despite being 32, the centre-back has once again hit top form.
Klopp declared his captain to be “the best defender in the world” right now. The Reds boss acknowledged Van Dijk’s prior dip in form, though named Man Utd icons Jaap Stam and Rio Ferdinand when stressing even the greats suffer poor spells.
No footballers are perfect, including Man Utd icons – Klopp
“Virgil is the best defender in the world,” declared Klopp (as quoted by The Liverpool Echo). “Did he have lesser good spells? Yes. Show me someone who never had.
“Was Rio Ferdinand always perfect? Jaap Stam? Sami Hyypia? Nobody was and nobody ever will be. He’s super important.”
Stam spent just three seasons at Old Trafford between 1999-01, though won the Premier League in each of those years.
The no-nonsense Dutchman was named in the Premier League team of the season every year he spent in England and was a crucial part of United’s treble-winning season in 1998/99.
Ferdinand, meanwhile, is widely regarded as one of the greatest centre-backs in Premier League history.
The TNT Sports pundit has six EPL titles to go along with his six selections in the Premier League team of the season.
Van Dijk does not have the trophy haul to match the United pair from a domestic perspective. However, much of that is due to the recent dominance of Manchester City who were not a factor in United’s heyday under Sir Alex Ferguson.