Virgil van Dijk has been savaged by two Dutch observers who made a series of startling claims about the Liverpool centre-half.
Van Dijk can stake a genuine claim to being one of the greatest centre-halves to grace the Premier League. However, now aged 32, the cracks in his game do appear to be showing.
Indeed, Van Dijk was below his customary high standards throughout the bulk of last season. The ACL injury sustained in a clash with Jordan Pickford back in 2020 cannot be blamed for the dip in performance given Van Dijk looked back to his best in the 2021/22 campaign when the Reds came close to winning the quadruple.
The Dutchman picked up his first ever red card in the Premier League a fortnight ago when denying Newcastle’s Alexander Isak a clear goalscoring opportunity. His sluggish defending in the incident with Isak was labelled “lazy” by Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher.
However, the international break has not provided Van Dijk with safe haven from criticism given the latest comments coming out of the Netherlands.
Van Dijk captains his country as well as Liverpool and two Dutch analysts – Johan Derksen and Rene van der Gijp – have given the defender both barrels.
Derksen’s criticism was the fiercer of the two, with the ex-player claiming Van Dijk was never a superstar to begin with.
Furthermore, Derksen called into question Van Dijk’s leadership qualities after using what Derksen believes to be too many excuses to explain poor defending.
Van Dijk was only ever good in the air – Derksen
“I’m getting very tired of that captain of the Netherlands,” said Derksen (via the Liverpool Echo). “If there is a lack of performance, he uses all kinds of clichés to explain what went wrong.
“Can he still handle the level? No, he’s on his last legs. I never thought of him as a star.
“He looks good, but I don’t think he’s a very good defender. He was only strong in the air.”
Dekrsen continued: “He then plays the so-called captain. He just kicks in open doors and that man never says anything..”
Van der Gijp initially countered Derksen when declaring Van Dijk used to be a top defender.
However, he no longer believes the Reds man is at the elite level and pointed to his lack of recovery pace at evidence.
“I really thought Van Dijk was an absolute top defender at the time when Liverpool won the [2018/19] Champions League,” said Van der Gijp.
“But I do think he took off a jacket after his injury. It was a really serious injury. In sprint duels you can simply see that he has diminished. Sometimes [he] also looks uncertain.”