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Van Dijk is better than Ramos and the real leader of Liverpool - Lawrenson

7:31 PM SGT 30/4/19
Virgil van Dijk Liverpool 2018-19
The former Reds star believes the Netherlands international can be considered the best defender in the world and a deserving winner of a PFA prize

Virgil van Dijk has moved above Real Madrid skipper Sergio Ramos in the pecking order of the world’s best defenders, says Mark Lawrenson, and has become the “leader” at Liverpool.

Much was expected of the Netherlands international when he moved to Anfield for £75 million ($98m) in the January transfer window of 2018.

He has, however, exceeded all expectations, with the 27-year-old now widely regarded to be the finest performer on the planet in his chosen position.

Former Reds centre-half Lawrenson agrees with that assessment, telling Goal of the standing now enjoyed by the Dutchman at Anfield and across the globe: “He’s very much up there in the pantheon of the players that they [Liverpool] have had.

“You look at the two full-backs as well [Andy Roberson and Trent Alexander-Arnold], they have been brilliant. The goalkeeper [Alisson] has been outstanding.

“Whoever has played with Van Dijk has been really good – whether that be [Joel] Matip, [Joe] Gomez or [Dejan] Lovren.

“Everywhere you look around that team, the manager [Jurgen Klopp] has improved every single player. I don’t think he gets the plaudits and appreciation for what he has done with the team.”

Pressed further on whether Van Dijk can now be considered to have topped Madrid captain Ramos, Lawrenson added: “Easy. There are no dark arts with Van Dijk.”

Van Dijk has been credited with having turned Liverpool into genuine contenders for the Premier League title, with his record-breaking transfer fee made to look like quite the bargain.

Lawreson said of a price tag which raised a few eyebrows at the time: “There were. But they are all looking at it now and thinking we could get £200m for him.

“Liverpool, I wouldn’t say they took a chance, but they probably thought they had to pay a little bit over the odds. But it’s worked out.

“His progression has been absolutely fabulous and he’s made it look so seamless.

“The biggest bonus that Liverpool have got is not just his ability, it’s that he really is a leader of the team. I know Jordan Henderson is the captain, but Van Dijk is the leader out of this current crop of players.”

That role has been recognised with the 2019 PFA Player of the Year award, with Van Dijk pipping Raheem Sterling to that prize while the Manchester City winger took the FWA gong.

Asked if the Liverpool man is deserving of a place at the top of the Premier League pile, Lawrenson said: “Absolutely. I thought he might have got both, I really did.

“Good luck to Raheem Sterling, who has got the journos one, but I thought Van Dijk might have got both.”

While Van Dijk has landed a prestigious individual honour, Liverpool are still waiting on a first piece of major silverware since 2012.

That barren run may be extended this season, but Lawrenson believes the 2018-19 campaign can still be considered a success for the men on Merseyside even if they come up short in bids for Premier League and Champions League crowns.

He added: “The trophy is still elusive and the more they don’t win one, everyone says they still haven’t won a trophy.

“But at the start of the season, all [owners] FSG will have said to Klopp is ‘get Champions League football’. They have got that weeks and weeks ago. They made £100m profit last year.

“Yes, of course Klopp would love to win a trophy but it is what it is. Is he not as good a manager because he has not won a trophy? No. He has improved every single player.

“With Klopp, he would love to win a trophy because a) that means everyone has won a trophy at Liverpool and b) it will stop everyone saying ‘you’ve not won a trophy’.

“If Liverpool finish on 97 points and City have 98, they deserve to win it. But it has been an absolutely unbelievable season for Liverpool.”

The Reds, who sit a point behind City in the Premier League table with two games remaining, are back in action on Wednesday when they take in the first leg of a Champions League semi-final showdown with Barcelona.

Mark Lawrenson is a Paddy Power ambassador, to read more go to news.paddypower.com