Vincent Kompany labelled the Liverpool superstar as the best defender in Premier League history on Wednesday.
Vincent Kompany is a defender’s defender.
The former Manchester City captain was a veteran of the Premier League by the end of his days at the Etihad, having skippered his side to four Premier League titles during his 265-game career in English football’s top flight.
A warrior to the core, the classy Kompany was a pivotal figure for City throughout his 11-year stay at the Etihad, a constant pillar at the back as everything in front of him was seemingly changed and tweaked with big-money sprees every summer.
Despite a string of injury problems across his time in Manchester, when it was time to stand up and be counted, Kompany was never found wanting.
To put it simply, Kompany’s knows his defensive onions.
Which is why it must have been so jarring for Liverpool’s rivals when he was asked about his thoughts on the best centre-back in Premier League history on Wednesday afternoon.
Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic? Both have legitimate shouts. John Terry too, given his outstanding service across a glittering career for Chelsea.
Kompany himself has a credible claim, but the Belgian was never going to pick his own name out the hat.
Instead, the current Anderlecht player-manager plumped for a man who stands as favourite for the Ballon d’Or above even Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I would bring it back to Virgil van Dijk,” Kompany said, ahead of his testimonial match at the Etihad on Wednesday.
Kompany cared little for how the soundbite might be received in the bowels of Manchester – a stronghold of Liverpool dislike, whoever you follow in the city.
Instead, the long-serving centre-half talked up the talents of a man who is out to usurp his former club in the Premier League race this season.
“He’s not been on the scene as long as Terry, Ferdinand who have been around for a long time but the signs he’s shown in the last few years show if he had been around longer he’d have been at the top for a long time.
“The Liverpool before Van Dijk and after are a completely different set-up so, I’ll give him that one.”
Van Dijk’s £75million signature in January 2018 was the catalyst that strengthened Liverpool’s Achilles’ heel almost overnight.
Within months of his arrival, the Reds had gone from a leaky backline where chaos reigned to Champions League finalists.
A year later, the former Southampton star would go on to lift the biggest prize in club football into the Madrid sky as Jurgen Klopp marked his first trophy at Anfield in style.
The Holland captain was the bedrock behind the best defensive record in the top flight last term as the Reds picked up 97 points by keeping 21 clean sheets and conceding just 22 times.
His form was so imperious, so consistent, that he was rewarded with the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award in April.
Becoming the first defender to win the trophy since Terry in 2005, Van Dijk was recognised for his superlative form domestically before scooping the European equivalent last month.
His name on the shortlist of the FIFA’s ‘The Best’ was also confirmed last week as Van Dijk closes in on yet another individual reward for his defensive excellence.
In an era of football that saw Ronaldo and Messi share 10 Ballon d’Ors between 2008 and 2017, Van Dijk has almost single-handedly made defending fashionable once more.