Virgil van Dijk the best defender in the world, says Paul Merson

Merson compares Liverpool defender to Alan Hansen, and jokes his kit never needs washing

Virgil van Dijk
Image: Virgil van Dijk is the best defender in the world, says Paul Merson

Virgil van Dijk is the best defender in the world, and is a shoo-in for the Premier League Player of the Year award, says Paul Merson.

The Dutchman has been one of Liverpool's outstanding performers this season, earning 16 clean sheets and conceding just 15 goals in 29 appearances as the Reds chase a first Premier League title.

He is favourite for the PFA Player of the Year award, and Merson waxed lyrical about the 27-year-old on Soccer Saturday, comparing him to Alan Hansen and joking that his kit does not need cleaning after a game, such is his calm dominance.

Van Dijk's PL stats 18/19

Apps 29
Clean sheets 16
Goals conceded 15
Tackle success 74%

Asked if he will win the Player of the Year award, Merson said: "Yes, in my opinion. He's unbelievable. He's so good, it's scary. He's the best in the world, and I think by a long way, as a defensive centre-half.

Virgil van Dijk battles with Andre Gomes in the Merseyside derby
Image: Van Dijk battles with Andre Gomes in the Merseyside derby

"Some players just see Van Dijk and kick the ball away. I saw Theo Walcott last week, he went down the right, Van Dijk comes across, and he thinks: 'Uh oh…' and kicks the ball away. Normally, Theo would try to take someone on with his pace.

"I can't talk highly enough of him. He's Alan Hansen. You can put his kit back in the skip for next week, you don't even have to wash it, he can wear it again. He's absolutely different class."

Some players just see Van Dijk and kick the ball away. I saw Theo Walcott last week, he went down the right, Van Dijk comes across, and he thinks: 'Uh oh…' and kicks the ball away.
Merson on Van Dijk

Former Liverpool defender Phil Thompson also praised Van Dijk for his improved leadership, and insists the imposing defender is a nine or 10 out of 10 each week.

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"This man is a colossus. In more ways than his 6ft 4in frame. The way he strikes that pose on that pitch. He is imposing," Thompson said.

WATFORD, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 31:  Liverpool centre back pairing Mark Lawrenson (l) and Alan Hansen in action during a League Division One match between
Image: Merson compared Van Dijk to former Liverpool defender Alan Hansen (right)

"It's the way he glides through games, reading it. Last week, people were saying after half an hour that Dominic Calvert Lewin was having a fantastic game. He was inside the top pocket of Virgil.

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"In the second half when it wasn't going Liverpool's way, he remonstrates with people, for example with Fabinho when he'd given it away. He was absolutely going for him.

"I've seen that even more in him, the leadership. He's set his standards high, and he maintains them. He's a nine or 10 out of 10 every week."

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