Virgil Van Dijk is probably the best central defender in the Premier League right now.
Van Dijk, 25, has excelled at the heart of Southampton’s defense this season as their reigning player of the year has captained them in the Europa League and been a key part of a defense which has conceded just 12 goals in 13 Premier League games thus far, keeping five clean sheets to open up the season.
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With rumors of both Everton and Liverpool lining up $55 million moves for VVD in January, his manager at Southampton, Claude Puel, has been talking about his star defender ahead of Saints’ EFL Cup quarterfinal clash at Arsenal on Wednesday.
He also called any talk linking Van Dijk with a move away from St Mary’s as “speculation” and believes he should stay where he is.
“Van Dijk is a great player and has a contract,” Puel said. “It is important all of the good players stay with us and continue their work and improve with Southampton. He has the ability to become one of the five or six best defenders in the world. He has the capacity, it is difficult to see something better on him. It is important he continues with stability, Southampton is a good club for him.”
Why is Van Dijk so good?
Firstly, his composure on the ball is astonishing for a center back. He never looks uneasy and is able to surge out of defense a la John Stones with minimum fuss, plus his pace and power mean he wins most of his tackles and aerial duels.
On the defensive side of the game he has improved drastically over the past 12 months since joining Southampton from Celtic for $16 million. He gets caught out of position less, reads the game better and his range of passing has improved as he often sprays long balls out wide to get attacks started.
Quite simply, it’s hard to see where VVD has a weakness.
In Southampton’s Europa League run he has had some great goalscoring chances but has uncharacteristically missed those away at Sparta Prague, Inter Milan and Hapeol Be’er Sheeva. The fact that the only real area Van Dijk, a center back, can improve on is scoring goals says it all.
When you look around the Premier League, the only other center backs which can come close to him are Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld at Tottenham and Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny. Apart from that, I don’t see many defenders better than Van Dijk.
With Southampton likely bracing themselves for big bids in January and next summer, Van Dijk’s value has to be north of $55 million. He also just signed a new long-term contract at Saints at the end of last season and it appears he’s in it for the long haul. That said, if a team comes in with a ridiculous offer for him in the next two transfer windows, can Saints really turn it down?