Dutch legend Ruud Gullit believes his fellow countryman Virgil Van Dijk has been pivotal in the Reds’ quest to exceed Manchester City.
The former Chelsea defender suggested that Van Dijk’s impact at Liverpool is one of the main reasons that his side currently holds a lead of 25 points over second-placed Manchester City.
Gullit, who was speaking prior to the Laureus World Sports Awards, argued that the Holland international’s overall play has been instrumental in the success of Jurgen Klopp’s team this season, matched equally by City’s troubles with finding a reliable and consistent defence.
He told Omnisport:
“In order to win, all the best teams have a good defence.
“At Barcelona, with Carles Puyol at the back, they had a good defence.
“If you don’t have that then you can attack all you like but you’re always conceding a lot of goals.
“Pep Guardiola bought four central defenders and they couldn’t do it. That was unlucky also with injuries but it is a stable factor to have defenders that can do the things that you need to do.
“A lot of teams don’t defend well. So, with Van Dijk, that was an issue that was done [solved].”
Van Dijk arrived at Anfield in January 2018 for a fee of £75million – he was and still is Liverpool’s record signing.
His large price tag has proved worthwhile after the defender helped the Reds to win their sixth Champions League title at the end of last season.
This campaign has seen equally impressive performances – the Dutchman being an ever-present in Liverpool’s hunt for the Premier League title, boasting an impressive 12 clean sheets to go alongside his four goals.
Gullit believes that centre-half is a prime example of how important it is to have a strong defender within a team.
“Van Dijk was an example that I was right in Holland. If I say you have to learn how to defend people say, ‘You’re always with the defending’ and things like that.
“But that’s where it all started. Now they say you’re right, [you can have success] if you have a good defender, and the good thing is it was a Dutch defender.”
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) February 17, 2020
The defender is a certainty to start in Liverpool’s last-16 Champions League tie away at Atletico Madrid on Tuesday evening as the Reds travel back to the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium for the first time since their emphatic triumph in June.