So now the news is official, and Virgil van Dijk has won the PFA Player of the Year award.
Some will say that Raheem Sterling deserved to win the award and some of those arguments may swing in his favour due to his work off the pitch as well as on it, and that has to be applauded.
However, no-one can argue with the tenacious and colossal defensive swing that the Dutchman has single-handedly brought to his team within the space of his 15-month spell at the club.
The 27-year-old had carried his £75m price tag on his shoulders as he made the trip from the south coast up to Merseyside, as the image broadcast all over social media of the centre-back holding aloft the famous Red shirt in front of his Christmas tree, he was immediately written off by certain pundits due to the transfer fee, not mentioning any names of course.
One thing’s for sure, van Dijk has made that eye-watering transfer fee feel like short change during his first year with the Reds. The deal looked to initially come to light with the expected departure of Philippe Coutinho for an astronomical £146m, and unfortunately, the move hasn’t paid off for the Brazilian so far. That effectively paved the way for the former Celtic defender to make the move to Anfield.
Certain performances during the 2018/19 season have really helped him stick his neck out into the world elite, with the majority of journalists, pundits and ex-professionals, particularly Paul Merson, agreeing that van Dijk is the world’s best centre back.
But how can one man have such an impact on one’s football team and their successes on the pitch? Certainly, during the Premier League era, it has been Liverpool’s attacking players that have helped the club to almost reach Premier League gold. Robbie Fowler, Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez have set unprecedented records during their time at Anfield.
Not since the days of Jamie Carragher, Sami Hyypia, Alan Hansen or even as far back as Ron Yeats, one of Shankly’s men, has there really been a true leader of men leading a team of men into battle.
His statistics for this season are ultimately some of the most glowing in recent years for a centre back at Liverpool to produce, within a defensive unit that has only conceded 20 goals in 35 Premier League games.
According to Who Scored, Virgil van Dijk has achieved an average over the course of the Premier League season of 7.42, with a passing accuracy of 89% and 4.7 aerial duels won per game. From a defensive point of view, he has averaged one tackle per game, 1.1 interceptions and 5.4 clearances which is an extraordinary feat for any defender, let alone a defender in the Premier League.
But the key statistic of them all, which turns him into the shining light of all centre backs right now, not one player this season has managed to successfully dribble past Virgil van Dijk, which is mind-blowingly brilliant. Not even legendary defenders such as Nemanja Vidic, John Terry or Vincent Kompany have ever achieved that in a single season.
It goes to show really that the Dutchman is a Great White Shark swimming in a small pond when it comes to defending this season in the Premier League. There appears to be nothing that phases him. He doesn’t lead by example by screaming or shouting, but instead, he makes everyone better around him with his organisation, his vision, his awareness and his anticipation, which are the four key principles for any good centre back.
Eurosport described him as “the supreme calm in the eye of a storm”, which is a very fitting analogy, considering Manchester United fans were labelling him as a worse version of Phil Jones not long after the transfer had gone through.
The debate will not end even now that the PFA Player of the Year has been announced. Liverpool and Manchester City fans will no doubt be locking horns over who deserved it and who didn’t. With a level head and a neutral mindset, as football fans, should just stand up and appreciate some of the exceptional quality that both Liverpool and Manchester City have brought to the table this season. Supposedly what will be, will be.