In what could be one of the most debatable statements of the year, Vincent Kompany has boldly claimed that Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk is the best defender ever to play in the Premier League. In present terms, that statement could be very valid but in a league that has seen the likes of John Terry, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand to mention a few is simply too much of a claim.
And while there have been players that have dominated for longer periods of time, Kompany says there are none that have changed a team quite like Van Dijk who, for Kompany’s money, is the best centre-back the league has ever seen.
Ahead of his testimonial, the Anderlecht player-manager Van Dijk was quoted as saying (via TheSun):
“I never to try to compare.
“My journey is different, I’ve had to deal with different tools and for me not to play this game, let’s not escape the irony.
“So I’ve had to deal with that and I’ve tried to be substantial for my team.
“I would bring it back to Virgil van Dijk, he’s not been on the scene as long as Terry and Ferdinand who have been around for a long time but the signs he’s shown in the last years.
“He’s shown if he had been around longer he’d have been at the top for a long time.
“The Liverpool before Van Dijk and after are a completely different set up. I’ll give him that one.”
Defenders seem to be back in the spotlight in the past few seasons. Virgil Van Dijk’s record-breaking transfer from Southampton to Liverpool certainly had a role to play in the same.
Unlike attackers, whose brilliance stems from tangible statistics like goals and assists, the brilliance of defensive players is often beyond numbers alone.
Van Dijk might have won the UEFA Champions League Player of the Year ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo but in actual truth, it’s still a not well-thought statement from Kompany to make those statements.
It’s obvious Kompany was taking based on the phenomenal year Van Dijk has had and that influenced his statement.
We’ll have to go back to basics and see what the numbers tell us. Using United great Nemanja Vidic as a yardstick, we will look at the numbers both players had in their remarkable seasons as players.
Of course, Van Dijk’s current season has been his best since he made his debut in 2015 – for Vidic we go back to the 2008/09 season where United won the treble of Premier League, FIFA Club World Cup and the League Cup. Four trophies if you count the Community Shield – but that’s up to you.
Looking at the above numbers, the message is clear. Nemanja Vidic’s 2008/09 season was miles better than that of Van Dijk on an individual basis.
The only aspect Van Dijk came on top was the aerial battles won and it comes at no surprise considering the Dutchman is at 6′ 3″ (via Transfermarkt) compared to Vidic’s height at 6′ 1″ as per the same source.
Further statistics still via the Premier League go on to show that Van Dijk even conceded a penalty while Vidic was perfect all season. They both made an error to goal for their respective teams so that pretty much cancels each other out.
On a team level as well, Van Dijk might have won the Champions League but a season where Vidic won the Community Shield, FIFA Club World Cup, Premier League and League Cup while also getting to the Champions League final is equally as successful if not better than Van Dijk’s season was.
The fact that Vidic had won the Champions League the year before then made the Champions League less of a holy grail compared to Liverpool who were without a European trophy since 2005 and a Premier League trophy in 30 years.
Due to the debate the above context was pulling, the reliable Sky Sports decided to bring an end to it when they took a poll asking which of the defenders was a better player.
Here we go, it's the final! ?
We've had hundreds of thousands of votes and we're down to our final 2⃣…
Who wins the Premier League's greatest ever centre-back award? ?
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) September 11, 2019
Of course, Vidic came out on top and the 45% won by Van Dijk will most likely be Liverpool fans doing their job.
In a nutshell, Van Dijk might be the best defender in the Premier League at the moment but in the history of the competition, he ranks far behind a lot of defenders.