Liverpool have become a great team because Virgil van Dijk, the best defender in the world, gives everyone around him the belief that they are great players too.
That’s the view of Celtic star Scott Brown, who was the Dutchman’s captain during Van Dijk’s two years north of the border.
Brown said: “Virgil van Dijk is a Rolls-Royce. He cruised it in the SPL and he’s cruising it in the Premier League – he has now shown that he is the best defender in the world.
“What we’re seeing from him these days is no surprise to me. The only surprise was that, when he left Celtic, only Southampton came in for him.
“Virgil has that willingness to win, a willingness to get better – he improves week in, week out.
“He played with great players at Celtic and now he’s gone to Southampton and Liverpool and played with great players.
“He makes good players believe they can be great players as well, and what he has done at Liverpool too is steady the ship.
“He has made that team a hard team to beat and that is due to his work-rate. It’s the drive in him, more than anything – you look at him and feel confident.
“One person in the Premier League has beaten him in a one-on-one in 75-odd games. So it’s that confidence and belief that he puts in you that oozes through the team.”
Brown got a close-up view of Van Dijk’s immense talent every working day between 2013 and 2015, and reckons the 28-year-old was a class act whatever position he ended up playing in training.
Brown added: “He could have been a No.10, a No.6… But as a centre-half he is so good.
“He was one of those you put that trust in, that belief.
“He comes forward with the ball and you know he’s not going to lose it, he’s so strong he’s going to cruise through.
“Then he’d hit free-kicks and score for us. So he has everything – he’s great in the air, he’s strong, physical and he’s quick.
“It’s everything everyone wants as a defender and Liverpool are lucky enough to have him.”
Shaky defence had long been Liverpool’s key problem before the arrival of Van Dijk.
But Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren are now looking like different players for having the experience of playing alongside the Dutch star.
Brown said: “Virgil reads the game so well, and he understands it. His first thought is, ‘If he makes a mistake, I can get there’, and he has the pace to do it.
“He is a step ahead of the game and that’s what makes him a top-quality defender.
“He knows when to squeeze, he knows when he should sit off, and when to go and win a battle.
“You can’t win them all… but most of the time Virgil does.”