Former England international Danny Mills has acclaimed the strength and ball-playing abilities of Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and said that he is the perfect role model for any centre-back hoping to succeed at the highest level.
Speaking to Football Insider, the ex-Manchester City defender believes that the 28-year-old Netherlands international has an ideal combination of physical defensive attributes and composure in possession.
Mills told Football Insider: “I think defending has changed completely, your John Terrys, Nemanja Vidics, those defenders don’t really exist anymore. Which is a shame for some teams as they could do with them, and Van Dijk is perfect.
“The set-up that he has, he’s strong, he’s powerful and he’s aggressive, at the right times, and then as a secondary option, he is good on the ball.
“But first and foremost, he is good on the ball and people need to get back to the basics if you want to play centre-half at a top-level, and there’s no better example than Virgil van Dijk.”
When you look at some of the statistics that Van Dijk has posted for Liverpool, it’s not hard to see why Mills has trumpeted him as an example of a leading centre-back.
In this season’s Premier League, the Dutch defender has posted a passing success rate of 87.1%, the sixth highest overall in Liverpool’s squad and the third highest when players with two league starts or fewer are excluded. [via WhoScored]
Van Dijk has averaged 73.8 passes per game in the league, second only in the Reds’ squad to Andrew Robertson on 74.8, while the Dutchman has posted the most passes per game of any Liverpool player in the Champions League with 83.5, and 91% of those found a team-mate. [via WhoScored]
Those figures aren’t out of the ordinary for him, either. In his two previous league seasons at Anfield, he has posted 89.7% accuracy from 79.9 passes per game (2018/19) and 89.2% accuracy from 81.2 passes per game (2017/18). [via WhoScored]
Mills is also right to point out Van Dijk’s strength and controlled aggression. The 28-year-old has won 5.8 aerial duels per game in the Premier League and four per game in the Champions League this season, second in Liverpool’s squad for the former and top for the latter. [via WhoScored]
Again, those averages are in keeping with the defender’s figures in recent years. He won 4.8 aerial duels per game domestically and 3.4 in Europe last season, after 5.6 domestically and 4.2 in Europe for Liverpool in 2017/18. [via WhoScored]
Van Dijk has made 84 appearances for the Reds and been booked only six times, an average of one yellow card every 14 games, which suggests that he is usually fair in his physical battles with opponents.
The Dutchman’s combination of defensive strength and ball composure is quite impressive, as his statistics show, and Mills is correct to name-check him as an example to defenders everywhere.
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