Former Premier League Golden Boot winner Kevin Phillips has implored Liverpool to secure the Anfield future of Virgil van Dijk, describing the reigning PFA Player of the Year as a “hugely important” part of Jurgen Klopp’s squad.
Football Insider recently reported that the Reds had commenced talks with the Dutch defender on a new contract worth more than £50m in wages and bonuses, with the 28-year-old’s weekly wage potentially surpassing £200,000, a significant climb from his current £125,000-a-week deal which commits him to the club until 2023.
Phillips believes that Van Dijk could play for another eight years at the highest level and said that he is a player that Liverpool “need on board”. Speaking about the centre-back’s Anfield future to Football Insider, he said: “It is hugely important. It is amazing how much one player has made a difference. Ultimately, he is their best player and their best asset.
“You would certainly want to tie him down, give him within reason anything he wants, to tie him down for the next four or five years. He is only going to get better. If Liverpool want to compete year in and year out he is a player they need on board. They do not want to be in a situation like Arsenal when they have let a player run their contract down and lose him for nothing.
“The way he plays, as long as he does not pick up any nasty injuries, I would say he has another eight years left – at least six quality seasons. When you are playing a top side, and dominating games, you do not tend to do as much running! It helps.”
Phillips is quite right to urge Liverpool to spare no effort in securing the future of Van Dijk at Anfield, given the enormous difference he has made to their defence in just over two years at the club. Since making his league debut for the Reds in January 2018, they have conceded just 53 Premier League goals with him in the 81 matches he has played for Klopp’s team in the division (0.65 goals per game). In the 61 league games Liverpool played prior to his debut against Swansea, they let in 70 goals (42 in 2016/17 and 28 in the first 23 games of the following season), a concession rate of 1.15 goals per game.
Van Dijk is the third highest-ranked Liverpool player in WhoScored‘s rankings for this season, winning 4.9 headers per game and boasting a passing success rate of 89.2%, the second highest in the squad when players with fewer than 100 Premier League minutes are excluded (as per WhoScored). He is the only man to have started every league game for the Reds in 2019/20 and has been ever-present in the top flight since the 3-0 win over his former club Southampton 18 months ago (as per TransferMarkt).
His outstanding performances last season were recognised with him being named PFA Player of the Year and UEFA Men’s Player of the Year, as well as UEFA’s man of the match in the Champions League final triumph over Tottenham. The transformation that Van Dijk has made to Liverpool’s defence explains why Klopp unfailingly selects him every week and why Phillips has called for the Anfield hierarchy to make sure that the 28-year-old remains a Reds player for a long time to come.
Liverpool fans, do you agree with Phillips’ verdict on Van Dijk? Do you expect the defender to be given an improved contract at Anfield? Have your say by commenting below!