Virgil van Dijk is “the most important player” at Liverpool, says Sami Hyypia, with the Dutchman integral to the club’s future ambition.
The Reds knew they were getting a talented centre-half when acquiring a Netherlands international.
Eyebrows were raised, though, when they invested a record-breaking £75 million ($99m) transfer fee in his skill set.
Those doubters have been silenced by a series of commanding performances which have made Van Dijk a talismanic presence at Anfield.
He is surrounded by quality in a star-studded squad, but the 27-year-old is considered to be the key man for Jurgen Klopp’s Premier League title-chasing side.
Former Reds defender Hyypia told Sky Sports: "Alisson came in the summer and we made some good signings in the midfield as well, but I think Virgil van Dijk is the most important player for the team.
"He makes the other players play better and he gives a lot of confidence to the others as well. He's such a good player."
Van Dijk’s efforts have helped to push Liverpool into contention for major honours this season.
They are through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, where they will face Porto, and back on top of the Premier League table.
Klopp’s men are only two points clear of Manchester City, who boast a game in hand, and Hyypia expects the battle for domestic dominance to go down to the wire.
He added: "It's going to be an exciting end to the season.
"I don't think City are going to drop many points and we can't [afford to] drop many points either, so I think it's going to go til the last game.
"That would be great to fight right until the end and I'm hoping we are going to do it this year."
Liverpool are set to return to Premier League action on March 31 when they play host to top-four hopefuls Tottenham.