Van Dijk names toughest opponent, picks ‘under-rated’ defender and rates Haaland

Virgil Van Dijk Sadio Mane Liverpool October 2021

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has named a Premier League defender who is “under-rated”, a “special striker” and revealed his toughest opponent.

Van Dijk has returned to action for Liverpool this season after missing almost the entire 2020/21 campaign with a serious knee injury.

Jurgen Klopp’s men missed the Holland international and could only finish third and 17 points behind champions Manchester City. But with the centre-back now back in place at the heart of the Liverpool rear guard once more hopes are high the Reds can challenge again.

Van Dijk has been an ever present in the league so far with Liverpool remaining unbeaten. He even captained the side in the 3-0 win at Leeds and he looks to be getting back to his composed best.

Asked if he accepted he was the world’s best defender, Van Dijk claimed it was only opinions.

“There are plenty of good defenders out there, look at the older guys Sergio Ramos, Thiago Silva and Gerard Pique. Obviously Barcelona are not doing too well at the moment but I have so much respect for what they have achieved,” Van Dijk told  Sky Sports Football’s YouTube channel.

“But the game as evolved and defending is getting a bit different now. Look at (Aymeric) Laporte who two years ago we didn’t know very well and (Antonio)Rudiger, I know him personally, and I think he had a fantastic season last year. And the way he came back from a knee injury I’ve got even more respect for him.

Matthijs de Ligt and Stefan De Vrij and also Nathan Ake, he is under-rated and then Joel Matip, but everyone has their own attributes.”

Van Dijk was also asked who the toughest forward he has ever faced was.

And the 30-year-old Dutchman did not have to think too long when he said it was Lionel Messi.

Assessing who will be the next Premier League manager to get the sack

‘Haaland is a special striker’

He said: “I would say Lionel Messi. I would say he is still the best footballer in the world.

“Him and Cristiano Ronaldo have been doing unreal numbers for the last decade and it’s incredible what they achieve.

“But I would say Messi because it was a very tough evening in Barcelona when we lost 3-0.”

Asked whether there was anyone else who had surprised him, he added: “Haaland is a special striker because he is so strong. He is quick and he has all the attributes to make a defender’s life very difficult.

“The first time (he faced him) was at Anfield when he came on and scored. He was at Salzburg and he had a tap in.

“In the away game he didn’t score and was subbed after 65 minutes. He was very quick, aggressive and direct. He plays a bit like Jamie Vardy plays, but a bit stronger.”

READ MORE: Barcelona ‘considering’ second Liverpool move amid Mo Salah interest