Niklas Sule knows first-hand just what a force of nature Virgil van Dijk has become. And ahead of Germany’s European Championship qualifier against Holland on Friday night, the Bayern Munich defender has paid a classy tribute to Liverpool’s Ballon D’Or-chasing Champions League winner.
Fans and pundits alike would agree almost to a man right now that no defender in world football comes close to Liverpool’s number four.
20 months after he joined The Reds from Southampton for a world-record £75 million, perhaps the best tribute that can be paid to Van Dijk is that his eye-watering transfer fee looks like a bargain these days.
Sule was left helpess when Van Dijk towered to score a glorious header in Liverpool’s 3-1 Champions League victory at the Allianz Arena in March and, after meeting the flying Dutchman on a number of occasions with the German national team too, he is in no doubt that the Anfield favourite deserves to become the first defender to win the prestigious Ballon D’Or since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.
"I've played him a few times now. He has an incredible physical presence," Sule told Goal. "I always had to cover him in the national team at set-pieces. That's when I realised what a guy he is. I'm not exactly skinny either!
“He played an outstanding season. He is also rightly in contention [for the Ballon d'Or]. That's also nice for a defender, to see that a defensive player could win it."
Van Dijk was far from his impenetrable best during the last meeting between these two international rivals, however. Holland lost 3-2 at home to Germany six months ago with the Liverpool powerhouse struggling to deal with the pace and movement of the Joachim Low’s roving false-nines Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry.
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