Belfast Telegraph

Liverpool hero Virgil Van Dijk can reach a whole new level in title run-in, warns Robertson

The Liverpool defenders have helped keep 16 clean sheets in the Premier League this season.

Virgil Van Dijk would be a worthy winner of the player of the year award, according to Liverpool team-mate Andy Robertson (Richard Sellers/PA)
Virgil Van Dijk would be a worthy winner of the player of the year award, according to Liverpool team-mate Andy Robertson (Richard Sellers/PA)

Liverpool defender Andy Robertson’s admission that playing alongside Virgil Van Dijk makes his job easier is evidence enough of why the Dutchman is the favourite to be crowned player of the year.

The world’s most expensive defender arguably leads the race for the accolade ahead of Manchester City trio Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and David Silva and his own 20-goal team-mate Mohamed Salah.

Since the Professional Footballers’ Association brought in its awards in 1974 a defender has won the main prize only five times, with John Terry the last to do so 14 years ago.

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John Terry was the last defender to be named PFA Player of the Year (Mark Lees/PA)

But Van Dijk has been the key component in Liverpool’s title challenge, helping the Reds keep a league-leading 16 clean sheets this season, and Robertson offered some insight into why.

“If the season ended tonight, I would give him it personally,” said the Scotland captain.

“There’s still 10 games to go and somebody can step up from another team but Virgil can take it to a whole new level, I reckon.

“The attacking players are usually in the running because they take all the goals and the headlines but this season Virgil has been fantastic and he’s getting all the plaudits that he deserved.

“I don’t think he’ll be focusing on that, he’ll be focusing on the team. It’s always nice to get end-of-season awards and I’m sure he’ll be in the running. It will be close if he doesn’t win it.

“He’s so consistent as well. If he puts the performances as he has done, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t have that trophy.

“He makes my life easier, that’s for sure. To have him next to me it makes everything so much easier.

“When somebody is running at you and you know Virgil is inside – he’s rarely out of position, if ever.

“For me, he’s the best centre-back just now in the world. That’s the way he’s playing and the confidence he’s got – and he’s still young enough that he can get even better.”

While Van Dijk has dominated in his own penalty area, the 6ft 4ins defender has not been as effective in the opposition’s box.

He scored two headers in Wednesday’s 5-0 drubbing of Watford to make it three for the season, although he has still scored only four across 56 appearances since making his £75million move to Anfield in January 2018.

But while he is keeping them out at one end, his contribution at the other is not as vital.

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Andy Robertson has hailed Virgil Van Dijk’s work rate (Anthony Devlin/PA)

“He works hard every day. Probably the only disappointment for him is that he hasn’t chipped in with enough goals,” added Robertson.

“For the size of him he’s a threat in both boxes and he scored two fantastic headers but more importantly defensively he was sound.

“Him and Joel Matip did fantastically to keep the clean sheet because they (Watford) hit us on the counter-attack a few times and those two mopped up – a tough task against Troy Deeney.

“Not many people bully him but I thought Virgil dominated him all game.”

PA

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