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‘Van Dijk one of the best players in the world’ - Former Liverpool team-mate reveals what makes defender so great

14:08 SAST 2019/09/10
Virgil van Dijk Liverpool 2019-20
Conor Masterson spent 18 months working alongside the Dutchman at Anfield and hopes to have taken plenty of lessons from a global superstar

Virgil van Dijk is not just one of the best defenders on the planet but also “one of the best players in the world”, with former Liverpool team-mate Conor Masterson revealing what makes him so great.

The Netherlands international has earned himself a standing among the global elite with his performances since completing a record-setting £75 million ($93m) move to Anfield.

He has already landed a Champions League crown and the UEFA Player of the Year award, while many are tipping him to complete an individual set by claiming FIFA The Best and Ballon d’Or prizes.

Masterson, who spent 18 months alongside Van Dijk before leaving Liverpool for QPR over the summer, is not surprised to see the 27-year-old earning such recognition.

In his eyes, the commanding centre-half is one of the finest talents around, with much of his best work often going unnoticed.

The Republic of Ireland Under-21 international told the Liverpool Echo: “Virgil van Dijk is one of the best players in the world.

“You learn so much from him and there’s no disgrace in saying I couldn’t get in [the team] because of him because he is a top player. Just training with him, and with Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren, who are all top players, too, you just learn so much.

“You naturally get better and then you can start pushing them, and they see you getting better, and that’s how it works. Liverpool players like that have taught me how to defend and it will stand me in good stead at QPR.

“You learn so much from Virgil van Dijk and the way he does things. It’s the little things – things that people wouldn’t notice on the pitch, but because you’re training with him day in, day out, you learn these things, and you think, ‘ah, that’s what he does, that’s how he makes it look easy’.

“It’s all in the head, and you pick that up when you start training with them, and you learn more because people realise what he actually does in the moment, say, the ball is kicked up long. The way he beats the man in the air and makes it look easy because he’s already a step ahead, he’s always jumping earlier, he’s already holding the man waiting to jump.

“It’s little things like that that you wouldn’t know unless you were up close day in, day out on the training pitch. That’s what make players world class and, as they say, practice makes perfect.”

Van Dijk is not the only Liverpool player Masterson holds in the highest regard, with fellow countryman Caoimhin Kelleher another he expects to catch the eye.

The promising goalkeeper has been moved into Jurgen Klopp’s senior plans this season following an injury to Alisson, although he is still waiting on a competitive debut.

“Caoimhin is a great lad, a top professional and an even better person,” said Masterson.

“I think he can play at the top level. I've trained with him and he’s probably the best goalkeeper I’ve trained with besides obviously Alisson. He has a bright future, he has a good contract at Liverpool, things are right for Caoimhin, and I think he can go right to the top.”