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Van Dijk is Liverpool's first leader since Carragher, says Heskey

11:08 BST 05/04/2019
Virgil Van Dijk Liverpool
The former Reds striker believes the Netherlands international has brought much-needed leadership to a side that had lacking in that area

Virgil van Dijk is Liverpool’s first defensive leader since Jamie Carragher, claims former Reds striker Emile Heskey.

A leaky back four had been something of an issue for the Reds prior to the big-money arrival of the Dutchman in January 2018.

Jurgen Klopp invested a record-breaking £75 million ($98m) in luring Van Dijk away from Southampton, with the defender considered to be the commanding presence his side were crying out for.

The 27-year-old centre-half has delivered on that expectation, with Liverpool boasting the Premier League’s meanest defence in 2018-19 as they chase down a first title in 29 years.

Van Dijk is considered to have played a crucial role in the Reds’ resurgence, with Heskey suggesting that he has filled a void which opened up when Carragher slipped into retirement back in 2013.

The ex-Liverpool frontman told Betoclock “Virgil van Dijk is the one player in the team who is a leader, and they haven’t had that since Jamie Carragher left.

“Someone who barks out orders and gets them out of sticky situations.

“He’s the player that team-mates can look up to and he’s the guy that they rely on.”

Carragher took in 737 appearances for Liverpool as a one-club man.

When he hung up his boots, the likes of Steven Gerrard were still around at Anfield.

Guidance at the back was missing, though, and the Reds have worked hard to address those issues.

They have gone four games without a clean sheet in all competitions over recent weeks, but Heskey believes Klopp has his side well placed to kick on in their pursuit of an elusive top-flight crown.

He added on a side which could return to the top of the table with a win over Southampton on Friday: “Klopp won’t be too concerned about how Liverpool are playing, and will be thinking about points on the board.

“He’s mentioned winning ugly, and that’s what they’ve done. A few years back, Liverpool wouldn’t have won matches like the Spurs game. 

“Now they’ve turned a corner where they can grind out results, even when they’re not playing great football.” 

Liverpool edged out Tottenham 2-1 in their most recent outing and will feel as though there is still more to come from them as they wait on the likes of Mohamed Salah to rediscover top form.