'Van Dijk is a monster like Stam' - Neville admits he was wrong about £75m star

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The Manchester United legend was not convinced about the Dutch defender when he signed for Liverpool, but has been won over by a commanding presence

Virgil van Dijk has been branded “a monster” by Gary Neville, with a Manchester United legend conceding that he was wrong about a £75 million ($96m) Liverpool star who now fits the Jaap Stam mould.

When the Netherlands international completed a big-money move to Anfield in January, becoming the world’s most expensive defender in the process, questions were asked of an inflated transfer fee.

Neville was among those left wondering whether the 27-year-old could justify such a hefty price tag, with Jurgen Klopp having taken a big risk in the effort to plug leaks in a shaky back four.

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Van Dijk has, however, starred in new surroundings, with his impact on Merseyside considered to be similar to that made by a fellow countryman who moved to Manchester in 1998.

Neville told Sky Sports of a commanding presence: "I thought Van Dijk was a good player at Southampton, but I didn't think he was worth £75m, and I didn't think he would have the impact on Liverpool's defence that he's had.

"He's a monster, and is looking a bit like Jaap Stam. It looks like he just throws people out of the way.

"You look at that midfield, with [Georginio] Wijnaldum, [Naby] Keita and [James] Milner, with [Jordan] Henderson still to come in. There is some strength in depth there.

"Can Liverpool reproduce that high-intensity football Saturday-Wednesday? And did they need another centre-forward in case [Roberto] Firmino is out? Because I do think there is a big drop in intensity in their play when him or [Mohamed] Salah are not playing."

Liverpool did impress, with all of their star turns on display, in a Premier League opener on Sunday which saw them crush West Ham 4-0.

Roberto Firmino Sadio Mane Mohamed Salah Liverpool West Ham Premier League 120818

Neville believes they are now the closest challengers to defending champions Manchester City, with Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United not offering enough to suggest that they can capture the crown.

The former Red Devils full-back added: "I think Liverpool are the side [City] will feel threatened by directly. Certainly in terms of the style of play, Liverpool have certainly got the measure of Manchester City. You can see that.

"City like to push up the pitch, the centre-backs play high and even push in when they're attacking. The likes of [Sadio] Mane, Salah, Firmino, if you leave space in-behind, they just cut right through you.

"I think directly there is a threat, and I think indirectly in terms of the bigger picture in the league, certainly with the signings they have made, the good feeling of getting into a Champions League final and finishing in the top four consecutive seasons is something where City will feel a threat.

"People are not feeling that way about Manchester United or Tottenham or Chelsea at this moment in time, because of what has happened in pre-season. So those teams will have to work their way into City's thoughts.”

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