Former Liverpool striker Michael Owen has boldly claimed that Reds centre-back Virgil van Dijk is the best in his position to ever grace the game.
Eyebrows were raised when Jurgen Klopp‘s side forked out £75m to sign the Dutchman from Southampton in 2018, but Van Dijk has been an integral figure in Liverpool’s rise to the top.
The 30-year-old has already helped Liverpool to the Champions League, Premier League, Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup and EFL Cup titles, as well as being crowned the Best Player in Europe in 2019.
Despite suffering a devastating ACL injury which sidelined him for the majority of the 2020-21 season, Van Dijk has returned as an imposing figure in the heart of the Liverpool defence this season and has also made his presence felt at the other end of the pitch.
The Netherlands international has amassed three goals and an assist from 47 appearances in all tournaments this season, with Liverpool now closer to completing the quadruple than any other English team before them.
Van Dijk’s exploits have led to debates over where he ranks in the Premier League’s greatest defenders list alongside revered names such as John Terry, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.
Owen spoke alongside Ferdinand for BT Sport during the build-up to Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final second-leg win over Villarreal, and he was not afraid to hail Van Dijk as the best centre-half ever in the company of the former Manchester United man.
“I’d go further and say he’s the best centre-half of all time. He probably scored a few more goals, we’re not talking much because we’re talking about the greatest here,” Owen told the broadcaster.
“Rio was the best centre-back I had ever played with. Van Dijk, as a centre-forward I look at him and think ‘what do you do against him?’ He’s bigger, faster, stronger than everyone, he’s brilliant on the ball, scores goals, I’ve never seen anything like it.
“The only thing that goes against him at the moment is his winners’ medals. One league, one Champions League. People like Rio, [Paolo] Maldini, [Franco] Baresi, people you consider as the greatest have numerous so, that’s the only thing.”
Ferdinand did not take offence to Owen’s words and even agreed with his compatriot, adding: “You play football to be regarded by your fellow pros as one of the top players and if they say that you’ve done alright in your career. Listen, Virgil van Dijk is the best centre-back on the planet right now. Easy.”
Van Dijk donned the captain’s armband for Liverpool at La Ceramica while Jordan Henderson warmed the bench but was unable to prevent Villarreal levelling the tie on aggregate through Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin in the first half.
However, Luis Diaz, Fabinho and Sadio Mane all made the net ripple in the second 45 to book Liverpool’s spot in their 10th European final, with either Manchester City or Real Madrid joining them.
Despite conceding twice to the Yellow Submarine, 6ft 4in Van Dijk still managed to win six of his eight aerial duels against Unai Emery‘s side while also making six clearances on the night.
The ex-Celtic man has now made 177 appearances for Liverpool in all tournaments over the past four years, scoring 16 goals and providing seven assists in that time.
The next fixture in Liverpool’s packed end-of-season schedule sees them welcome Tottenham Hotspur to Anfield on Saturday evening as they endeavour to temporarily rise above Manchester City to the top of the Premier League table.