Barcelona legend Carles Puyol has heaped praise on Liverpool centre back Virgil van Dijk, describing him as ‘one of the best in the world’.
The Dutch international’s rise to prominence in recent years has been stunning to witness, and the World Cup winner has been blown away by the Reds star.
“Van Dijk is one of the best in the world,” he told The Independent. “He is the complete defender, always calm, a great player.
“The spotlight usually goes to the strikers, so it is nice to see a defender get deserved recognition. It’s true that in recent years [Lionel] Messi for me is the best, and it’s difficult to compare to him because to me he’s the best player in history.”
There’s no doubt that Van Dijk is in elite company as one of the very best players in world football. As we know, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo sit in elevated company above all mere mortals. They are the two greatest players of all time and simply cannot be put in the same category as the men just below them, even if they are still immensely talented. That’s where Van Dijk falls. He is one of a group of players who sit comfortably behind Messi and Ronaldo as the ones who will follow them as the world’s best players once they retire. In that group the Liverpool star is accompanied by people like Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Mohamed Salah, Eden Hazard and Raheem Sterling. But it is nice to see a defender in the conversation for the Balon d’Or, and there’s no doubt that he deserves to be in amongst it after his stunning year. Whether he will claim the prize remains to be seen, but he’s certainly deserving of the recognition he is now getting.