It’s going to be challenging and it’s foolish to expect anything different, but comparing Harry Maguire‘s first full season as world record defender to Virgil Van Dijk is a tough way to go about evaluating the former Leicester City man’s gigantic move to Manchester United.
First and foremost, Van Dijk was the missing piece of Jurgen Klopp‘s master plan and turned a very good team into an elite one.
Maguire is just one step back, albeit a $103 million one, for a wobbly Manchester United who could’ve really used this player back when Jose Mourinho specifically wanted him for his system.
Statistically, there are a few others difficult aspects of this comparison thanks to Van Dijk engineering his move during the January window and playing a half-season with Saints before going to Anfield.
Let’s just choose their final full seasons with their previous Premier League employers (even if that is flawed thanks to a long-term injury for Van Dijk).
Maguire is 26, and will be moving to United at the same age that Van Dijk split St. Mary’s for Anfield.
Both players were instantly set to become the defensive centerpieces for their new sides, and Van Dijk had better tackles and interception numbers before the move, Maguire’s passing numbers were superior.
Van Dijk then saw his touches explode on a better team, and you have to remember we’re comparing Maguire to a player who became a Ballon d’Or candidate upon joining his new team. It’s unfair to expect the numbers to be close at this point.
Maguire is one of the better long ball playing center backs in the game, and his passing numbers should rival Van Dijk’s once he settles into his new digs.
But he’s also going to have gigantic expectations hoisted upon him, especially considering he was the 14th ranked center back in the Premier League (min. 15 appearances) last season, not too far ahead of partner Jonny Evans. For comparison, Van Dijk and Joel Matip were one and two. You can imagine which one is pulling up the other in each case.
What Maguire represents, however, is Red Devils chairman Ed Woodward acknowledging that he had been negligent at the back, failing to sign proven Premier League commodities to play in front of David De Gea.
And Maguire will give Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw the freedom to maraud — something Maguire doesn’t hate doing from time-to-time — and give larger measures of confidence to the midfielders in front of him.
The prices of the transfer market are now insane and a new normal. Gone are the days when $10 million could land a big club a big player, as the Premier League’s money allow teams like Leicester City to play hardball.
Finally, perhaps it’s wrong to compare the two players given that Maguire’s fee is subject to the English player tax, which isn’t a real thing but also the reason we’ve seen nutty fees for any player who brings significant Three Lions experience or hope (See: Barkley, Ross and Drinkwater, Danny).