Former Chelsea star Michael Ballack has claimed that Virgil van Dijk is ‘lucky’ to be playing in the current era.
The German is quoted by The Mirror and his comments are sure to shock fans around Europe.
“Virgil van Dijk is very lucky to play in an era where there is no Drogba, Lampard, Alan Shearer, Henry, Rooney, Van Persie, Tevez, Adebayor and Diego Costa in the Premier League,” Ballack said.
“No wonder they think he is the best defender in the league.”
Nicol backs van Dijk
Former Reds defender Steve Nicol has leapt to the Dutchman’s defence, saying, “I’m interested to know which part of his game he’s not happy with.”
Nicol continued to ESPN FC, “are you telling me that Van Dijk couldn’t beat anybody up physically? Even Drogba?
“Pace-wise I don’t remember seeing anybody, whether it’s the Premier League or the Champions League, running past this guy. So that’s not a problem.
“I’d love to know which part of van Dijk’s game he thinks would be susceptible to any of these strikers that he was talking about.”
Is van Dijk actually ‘lucky’?
Ballack’s statement has certainly started numerous debates online.
Of course, Liverpool fans back their man as by far the best defender in the world, and possibly the best in Premier League history.
Equally predictably, rival fans have been quick to agree with Ballack.
In reality, van Dijk has proven a match for every striker he has come up against in the last number of years.
While Liverpool lost the 2018 Champions League final, Cristiano Ronaldo was hardly mentioned throughout the whole game. Van Dijk was a key part of that.
Despite Leo Messi’s double in the 3-0 first leg win for Barca in last season’s Champions League semi-final, he was quiet over the 90 minutes. His goals were a tap-in into an empty net and a free-kick.
Van Dijk managed to keep both Messi and Luis Suarez quieter in the second leg. It is important to remember that this was a game that Liverpool were chasing, and Barcelona were afforded much more space than Liverpool normally afford to teams.
We all know how that game went.
So if van Dijk was able to manage two of the game’s best ever, possibly THE two best ever, would the strikers mentioned by Ballack actually have been an issue?
He has also performed excellently against the likes of Harry Kane, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sergio Aguero, all of whom are in the top percentile of strikers in the league’s history.
As Nicol mentioned, pace and physicality is no problem for van Dijk.
He has outrun Adama Traore and out-muscled Troy Deeney. Are these truly elite forwards? Probably not. But are they among the fastest and strongest strikers in Premier League history? Absolutely.
So he can deal with Aguero’s movement, Deeney’s strength and Traore’s pace. What more could you ask of him?
Virgil van Dijk has no weakness. No matter who he comes up against.