'The Federer of football' - Van Dijk a 'great centre-half', says Carragher

The Dutchman has been a hit at Anfield since he arrived and the Liverpool legend believes that his skill makes his team-mates improve around him

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk is “the Federer of football”, according to former Reds stars Jamie Carragher and Graeme Souness, and the best centre-half not just in the Premier League, but beyond it.

Van Dijk has been a major success on Merseyside since his switch to Anfield in January, helping to turn Jurgen Klopp’s side into genuine title contenders this season.

The 27-year-old played a pivotal role for his club in helping them to the Champions League final last campaign after his arrival and has carried over his good form into domestic and European competition across the 2018-19 season.

Speaking on Sky Sports ahead of Liverpool’s vital clash with Manchester United on Sunday, Carragher – who won the Champions League in 2005 with the club – and Souness, who captained the Reds between 1981 and 1984, both praised Van Dijk as pivotal to the club’s excellent form.

The former in particular lavished praise on how the former Celtic and Southampton man had improved the Liverpool defence, stating: “Every time someone plays alongside him, they look like a top player.

“That is the effect of a great centre-half. You think of Manchester United, [with] Vidic and Ferdinand, John Terry at Chelsea.

“Those back fours that they commanded is something.

“[It’s like] when you watch [Roger] Federer play tennis, he makes everything look easy, he’s always there. He’s like the Federer of football.”

Scotsman Souness further elaborated on the impact made by Van Dijk, stating that his sole contribution could be the difference between narrow defeats and silverware for Liverpool.

“Him – just him alone – has made such a difference to [them] from being challengers to a team that I think can challenge for all,” Souness stated.

“I know they got to the Champions League final last year but I think now, this time around, with him alone in the team, I think he gives them a great chance.

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“I think he’s the best one out there that I can think of, I don’t think there’s anyone else that has all those attributes.

Asked if Van Dijk was the best in the Premier League, he added: “And beyond.”

A victory for Liverpool against rivals United will take them back to the top of the table after Manchester City usurped them on Saturday.