Virgil van Dijk has been lauded by Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher as “the world’s best defender” and one of the “top five players in the Premier League”.
The Netherlands international has enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence over the course of the last 18 months.
A record-breaking £75 million ($95m) transfer took him to Anfield in January 2018, and from that point he has been a model of consistency and tower of strength.
His presence is considered to have played a leading role in Liverpool now being title challengers at home and Champions League winners in Europe.
Van Dijk’s exploits have already been recognised with the PFA Player of the Year award and Carragher believes he is now one of the finest performers on the planet – not just the pick in his chosen position.
The former Liverpool defender told Sky Sports: “When you talk about the best players in the league, you automatically go for the attacking players. But Van Dijk is in the top five players in the Premier League – not just defenders, players.
“Now, that might sound obvious as he got player of the year this season but year on year, if you said to me ‘name the best players’, I’d always put him in along with Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane, Eden Hazard and so on.
“There might be someone who has a better season than some of those players one season but, consistently, they’re the best – and Van Dijk will always be in that list.”
Van Dijk is currently preparing to take on a number of familiar faces from the Premier League in the colours of his country.
The Netherlands are due to take on England in the semi-finals of the Nations League on Thursday.
That outing will see him paired with highly-rated Ajax star Matthijs de Ligt, who continues to attract interest from leading sides across Europe.
Carragher concedes that the Dutch now boast what is arguably the strongest centre-half pairing in world football, saying of Van Dijk and De Ligt: “I saw Ronald Koeman at the weekend saying he feels he’s got the best partnership in Europe at international level and in some ways you can’t really argue.
“Firstly, he knows them better than anyone and it’s also the position he played in himself.
“In Van Dijk I think he has the world’s best defender – and I think he can rightly say that now he’s won a Champions League. While in De Ligt they’ve definitely got the world’s best young centre-back.”