Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has given the ideal response to Gary Neville’s claim that he is no longer feared by opposition teams. Roy Keane also hit out at the Dutchman but he has made sure to let his football do the talking since.
Van Dijk is considered one of the most influential signings by Liverpool in recent history. Despite costing a then world-record fee for a defender of £75million, he has proven to be worth every penny since his arrival in January 2018.
Liverpool won the Champions League in his first full season in charge, falling agonisingly close in the Premier League title race. The following campaign saw the Reds finally end their 30-year wait for a title.
Van Dijk was largely regarded as the best in his position in world football. Disaster struck early the following campaign when he suffered an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury following a tackle by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in the Merseyside derby.
He missed the rest of the campaign and returned to fitness with perhaps a yard less pace than he once had. Fast forward to August 2022 and Liverpool were on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat at United.
Read more… FA urged to change law after Arsenal’s dramatic comeback against Chelsea
At the time, Keane said on Sky Sports: “You can’t afford that sloppy defending, particularly from your best players. Van Dijk has been really awful.”
While Neville dug the nail in further, claiming he was nowhere near the player he once was. He said: “What I will say about Van Dijk is that there was a time, maybe before last season before his injury, where you wouldn’t even see players take him on.
“They would refuse and just pass the ball. There are now starting to have a go, thinking ‘I have a chance here’.”
However, Van Dijk has taken that criticism on board and responded on the pitch. The 32-year-old is now racking up statistics similar to, if not better than his best campaign of 2019/20.
- Advert-free experience without interruptions.
- Rocket-fast speedy loading pages.
- Exclusive & Unlimited access to all our content.
‘Cristiano Ronaldo should give me one of his Ballon d’Ors – I was better'[QUOTES]
Sky Sports apologise to James Maddison for gaffe after Tottenham beat Fulham[REACTION]
Bobby Charlton’s daughter worked for BBC and RAF before marrying Wimbledon hero[INSIGHT]
Van Dijk averaged five aerial duel wins per game in 2019/20 and is doing so again this term. He was dribbled past 0.2 times per game four years ago but is yet to be dribbled past at all this season.
In 2019/20, Van Dijk made 0.6 tackles per game, 1.1 interceptions, 4.3 clearances and 0.4 blocks. This season he’s averaging 1.1 tackles, 1.9 interceptions, 5.7 clearances and 1.3 blocks.
Van Dijk has improved in all four facets, although some may say he is having to put extra yards in playing in this Liverpool side. He may have lost some of his pace but has made up for it in other areas.
Van Dijk is still the pillar of the Liverpool defence and looks to have another year or two at least in him at Premier League level. Neville and Keane’s theory may have stood 12 months ago but the centre-back has hit back in the perfect way.
Source: Read Full Article