Virgil van Dijk has been quite the swagger since joining Liverpool five years ago but former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand doesn’t think he can rank himself among the greatest centre-backs ever.
Rio Ferdinand argues that Virgil van Dijk’s difficult season for Liverpool means he pales in comparison to some of the greatest centre-backs football has ever seen.
Former Manchester United defender Ferdinand, considered one of the Premier League’s best centre-backs, reckons the likes of John Terry, Nemanja Vidic and Vincent Kompany have never gone through the kind of trouble Van Dijk is currently experiencing. , with his Liverpool team-mates also having a difficult season.
Before the Reds lost 1-0 to Real Madrid on Wednesday – which saw them crash out of the Champions League, losing 6-2 on aggregate – Ferdinand told BT Sport: “There are phases in your career when things don’t go to plan. You see the great centre-backs like Vidic, Kompany, [Sol] Campbell, Terry, Jaap Stam they don’t have off seasons or big periods like eight to nine games.
“The shape of the team plays a role and it does have an impact and sometimes you are as good as the team around you. He hasn’t put the team out in a way that fits his style of play.”
Former Liverpool striker Michael Owen then tried to explain Van Dijk’s ongoing woes, as he also featured for Karim Benzema’s late back-up on Wednesday, concluding that the Reds’ midfield problems had caused the 31-year-old to come to light. “When Liverpool are playing well you don’t have to do a lot (as a defender), they win the ball up front,” Owen added before the game.
“The problem is they allow themselves to be exposed (at the moment) so it’s difficult to play if your team isn’t functioning well. It’s difficult at the moment because he’s exposed one on one. If they are playing well you don’t even pay attention to him and he just clears everything.”
Last May, however, Owen claimed that Van Dijk was “the best centre-back of all time” after Liverpool reached the Champions League final – which they then lost to Real Madrid. “He probably scored a few more goals [than the other contenders], not many, but we’re talking about the greatest here,” he confirmed to a confused fellow pundit Ferdinand.
“As I said, Rio is the best centre-back I’ve ever played with. But with Van Dijk, as a centre-forward I looked at him and thought: what did you do to him? He’s bigger than everyone, he’s faster than everyone, he’s stronger than everybody, he’s brilliant on the ball, he scores goals. I’ve never seen anything like it.”