Emile Heskey has hailed the progress made by Jannik Vestergaard at Southampton but doubts that the defender could make a Virgil van Dijk-style impact at Tottenham Hotspur, speaking exclusively to HITC.
There are certainly a few similarities between the 6ft 6ins Dane and another commanding centre-half who honed his considerable talents in the feted St Mary’s finishing school.
Like Van Dijk, Vestergaard is not only a towering presence in both boxes but also brilliant passer of the ball, capable of turning defence into attack with a jaw-dropping, 60-yard diagonal.
And, three years after Liverpool paid a world-record £75 million fee to lure Van Dijk away from the South Coast, The Mirror reports that Vestergaard too has emerged as a target for one of the Premier League’s big boys.
Jose Mourinho has made the £18 million giant one of his top priorities as he steps up his pursuit of a new central defender.
But can Vestergaard do at Spurs what Van Dijk did at Anfield?
“I’m not saying Vestergaard cannot have a similar impact (to Van Dijk) but can he be the same player? Probably not,” reflects former Liverpool and Leicester ace Heskey.
“I spoke with (former Foxes team-mate) Neil Lennon when Van Dijk was at Celtic and he honestly said to me that he couldn’t believe no one came in for him earlier.
“Every season he was saying; ‘I’m praying no one comes in for him’. He was that far ahead of everyone else. He was head and shoulders above everyone.”
Southampton were flying high near the top of the Premier League table before Vestergaard suffered a serious knee injury in December.
It is no coincidence that Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side won just once in seven games without their star centre-back, a run which included that 9-0 thumping at Manchester United.
14 months ago, Southampton considered selling the former Monchengladbach man to Leicester at a £3 million loss. You can expect the Saints to put up a much greater fight when Tottenham come calling, however, with Vestegaard one of the division’s most improved players over the last year or so.
“When you come in to the Premier League, not every player can be great (straight away),” Heskey adds.
“It takes them time to get to where they want to get to, to understand the league. But after being in the league for one or two years, you start seeing the best of them.
“Now, you’re starting to see the best of Vestergaard.”