Virgil van Dijk is the best defender on the planet – and we’re not even sure anyone else comes close right now.
But there was a point when the Dutchman didn’t particularly stand out and his career progression to the very top was slow.
After all, he had just 12 caps for Netherlands aged 26 when he made his blockbuster move to Liverpool.
Van Dijk has explained there was a point when he was at Willem II when he didn’t even know if he’d make the grade, but that a growth spurt helped.
“I played in the academy of Willem II for 10 years. There was a period at Willem II when I was around 16 that I was on the verge of not going through to the next year of the academy. I was not good enough at all, I was on the bench a lot,” he told Sky Sports.
“In the summer I had a growth spurt and after that everything went really well. I had an injury in my groin because I was growing so much, but after that I made big steps.
“I was playing regularly, captained the U18s and at that time I was disappointed not to make my first-team debut for Willem II. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make my debut there because of decisions that were made at the time.”
It’s hard to think of a team that could put van Dijk on its bench, but that goes to show the strides the no.4 must have made over the past decade!
Van Dijk is physically stronger and faster than anybody else – but he combines that with beautiful technique, wonderful reading of the game, composure and leadership.
We’d argue that his signing is maybe the most important of the Jurgen Klopp era, which is saying something, considering the likes of Alisson, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, to name but a few, have all been acquired during the German’s reign.