John Barnes: Virgil van Dijk reminds me of Liverpool FC legend
The ex-Liverpool FC captain likens Virgil van Dijk to one of the club's greatest-ever defenders after his impressive 12 months at Anfield
John Barnes says watching Virgil van Dijk reminds the Liverpool FC legend of his former team-mate Alan Hansen, adding that the Dutch centre-half is a contender for the PFA player of the year award.
The Netherlands international has been a key player for Liverpool FC manager Jurgen Klopp in the title race this season after Van Dijk arrived in a club record £75m deal from Southampton in the 2018 January transfer window.
Van Dijk, 27, has played a big part in Liverpool FC’s defensive transformation over the past 12 months or so.
Klopp’s defence has stopped leaking sloppy goals and has kept more clean sheets than any other team in the Premier League this season.
Liverpool FC still boast the best defensive record in the Premier League despite uncharacteristically conceding three times in Saturday afternoon’s 4-3 victory over Crystal Palace.
Asked during an exclusive interview with The Sport Review for bookmaker comparison platform BonusCodeBets.co.uk, if Van Dijk reminded Barnes of any of his former Liverpool FC team-mates, the ex-Reds skipper replied:
“[He reminds me of] Alan Hansen in terms of how calm he is and the effect he has on the defence.
“Even more so than Sami Hyypia. Sami was a great player but he played alongside Jamie Carragher and the defence was better when Sami was here.
“In terms of the player closest to Hansen, it’s Van Dijk.”
Liverpool FC underwent a lengthy pursuit of Van Dijk before Klopp finally signed the former Celtic defender in January 2018.
Barnes added that Van Dijk’s impact has come as a surprise, even if his talent was undisputed ahead of his arrival at Anfield.
“He hasn’t taken me by surprise because I know the quality he has but I didn’t expect him to have such a big impact on the team,” Barnes said.
“He has helped them get the best defensive record. Alisson has helped that. A centre-half and a goalkeeper is a spine of a team. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson and even Dejan Lovren are all doing better once they had a commanding centre-half alongside them.
“It is the obvious impact he has had on the defence.”
Van Dijk’s Liverpool FC colleague Mohamed Salah won the PFA player of the year award last term following his return of 32 league goals in his debut season at Anfield.
Chelsea FC legend John Terry was the last defender to win the PFA award after the ex-England international marshalled the Blues to title success in 2004-05.
Barnes suggested that Van Dijk could become the first centre-half to win the award in 14 years even if Liverpool FC miss out on the title.
“If he plays the way he does and Liverpool win the league [he could win the PFA award],” added Barnes.
“We may not win the league but he can still do that if he continues to play the way he is playing and have the effect that he has. But it’s only halfway through [the season].
“If Liverpool lose the next 10 games and we lose 5-0, he’s not going to. He has a chance – and he has had a fantastic first half of the season.”