We all love football for goals and attacking actions, often forgetting about the role of defenders or goalkeepers. The one who played in early childhood can remember that the team’s backside was often built from slower or less technical players, while all the skilful talents were usually sent to attack. However, some of the modern defenders turned the game in the defence into a real mastery and separate art class, and Virgil van Dijk probably made the most contribution to it in the last five years or so.
Birthday and early career
The birthplace of the future footballer van Dijk is a flourishing city in the Netherlands – Breda. Virgil appeared to this world on July 8, 1991. Although the youngster loved to play football everywhere and had good height (1.93 metres) and speed, he first entered a football academy at the age of 18. Thus, in 2009, he joined the school of Willem II and changed it in just a year to Groningen.
With a quite late football career start for the modern times, van Dijk firstly came to the pitch in the senior jersey being already 20. However, his skills and talents allowed him to cement his place in the first 11 of the team, where he played 62 games in two years. So, the Scottish legendary FC Celtic was ready to pay about 3 million dollars for the 22-year-old central defender.
In Scotland, Virgil spent another two years in the local grand. Celtic was dominant in the country in those years, and van Dijk allowed to accomplish this task. Moreover, he was twice admitted as one of the best players in the Scottish league, winning two championship trophies and a local Cup event. His dominance in physical parameters was noted in England, as the defender from the Netherlands played 76 matches in his two years at Celtic Park and scored crucial nine goals. So, Southampton, which played in the English top division in 2015, Premier League, decided to pay about 20 million dollars for Virgil. By the way, in you want to win more with huge bonuses, higher odds, and without risks – visit our betting sites for football rankings page. A fresh review of the most reliable offers for Indian bettors will be helpful for you.
Move to England and fast career development
In the middle of 2010th, Southampton was a really unique club in the EPL. The team gathered specialists on all levels, starting from scouting, and finishing with main coaches. It allowed the Saints to spend money on transfers effectively, while other clubs paid much more for the same players in a few years. For instance, Liverpool bought five players from Southampton in two years, spending more than 100 million dollars, with the most notable names like Sadio Mane, Dejan Lovren, and Adam Lallana. So, van Dijk came to the southern English club with a clear perspective to make one step further fastly, although he could work with the coaches like Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman.
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After great opening years in the Saints’ jersey, Virgil attracted the attention of Liverpool once again. Especially their boss, Jurgen Klopp, who greatly appreciated the Dutch talent. However, in summer 2017, Southampton bosses decided not to sell their main central defender, although the Reds were ready to pay substantial money. The talent and other strong sides of van Dijk were great, so the Saints tried to ask for as much money as they could and made it in half a year. Liverpool agreed to pay more than 80 million dollars for him, making Virgil the most expensive in football’s history at his position in defence. Van Dijk even ignored the interest of Manchester City and other clubs, as he wanted to work under Klopp at Anfield. He looked really happy when the deal was over, so he joined the team from river Mersey in the middle of 2017-2018 and assisted the team finish as Champions League finalists, losing to Real Madrid.
Virgil’s appearance in England was accompanied by the first games in the national orange jersey, where he took the leading role and even received a captain’s role soon. When he wasn’t injured, his position in the starting squad of the Dutch team was undoubtful, and the team even played in the Nations’ League final game but failed to a hosting Portugal.
An absolute beast in Liverpool
The only question after van Dijk’s arrival at Liverpool was if Virgil could show the maximum of his abilities in the top club and at the top level. The Dutch needed half a year to show that he could be great at the highest level, as the whole defence line of the Reds became playing better with him on the pitch.
However, the decisive and most notable became his maiden and second full seasons in a new team. After the failure in the UCL 2018 final, the team passed the same way the next year, with an epic comeback against Barcelona at Anfield. A crucial defeat of 3:0 at Camp Nou meant a few chances for the final, but Liverpool beat Barca 4:0 at Anfield and was clinical against Tottenham in the decisive game (2:0). Simultaneously, the Reds took 97 points in the EPL but lost the title to Manchester City with 98. Merseyside club showed the best defence in the EPL, and the role of Virgil in both incredible tournament runs was vital.
While most experts predicted a decrease for Klopp’s guys in the next season, they even improved their results in the English top division. Once again, the squad conceded the least in the EPL, and everyone saw how great could van Dijk be and how could he facilitate his teammates. As the Merseyside club had been waiting for the triumph in the national championship for 30 years, the coach made the main emphasis on this event, so the Reds left UCL early, losing to Atletico Madrid in the very first playoff round.
During that period, Virgil was often regarded as the strongest and smartest defender globally. He was an inevitable part of diverse symbolic teams in both EPL and UCL. In 2019, the Dutch were even close to winning the Ballon d’Or but lost only a few points to Messi. However, he received FIFA’s Best Men’s award, which is comparable in terms of importance and recognition. The Dutch could continue his incredible career, but an ACL injury after a crazy move by Pickford from Everton in October 2020 left him out of play until the beginning of the season 2021. In 2022, Virgil van Dijk again looks like the best defender of the central zone at his 31.
Net worth and unique playstyle that makes him the best defender
Transferring to Liverpool meant not only a huge fee but also a great salary for the Dutch. Now van Dijk earns about 15 million dollars per year while also having a few interesting endorsements. It makes Virgil one of the best-earning footballers, while his net worth is estimated close to $70 million.
Such popularity and money didn’t come accidentally to van Dijk. Since his arrival at Celtic, everyone saw his power, intellect, and understanding of the defence game. As the Scottish club dominated in his league, Virgil also showed good passing and ball control, which allowed him to take extra control over the ball possession. In Southampton, he approved all those features in the game, but against much stronger opponents. Thus, van Dijk was clinical in the forceful struggle against the attackers, almost impossible to path him via dribbling, and dominant in aerial duels.
With a great distance speed, the Dutch centre-back was a great problem even for Mbappe when two national teams played against each other. Real problems for van Dijk were delivered personally by Messi, who is much smaller and has great footwork with many fake moves, so even Virgil called the Argentinian the scariest opponent. The list of van Dijk’s strong sides is so big that a lot of football fans believe that in optimal physical conditions, Virgil is one of the best defenders in football history.