Former Chelsea Star Michael Ballack Says Virgil Van Dijk Is 'Very Lucky'
Michael Ballack is not aboard the Virgil van Dijk hype train and believes the Dutchman has benefited from playing in an era without a slew of great Premier League strikers.
The Liverpool defender, who finished second to Lionel Messi in last year's Ballon d'Or rankings, is widely deemed to be the best centre-back in world football at present.
But Ballack, who made 105 appearances in the Premier League for Chelsea, says Van Dijk wouldn't have been held in such high regard had he come up against the likes of Didier Drogba, Thierry Henry, Alan Shearer, Carlos Tevez andRobin van Persie among others.
"Virgil van Dijk is very lucky to play in an era where there is no [Didier] Drogba, [Frank] Lampard, Alan Shearer, [Thierry] Henry, [Wayne] Rooney, [Robin] Van Persie, [Carlos] Tevez, [Emmanuel] Adebayor and Diego Costa in the Premier League," Ballack is quoted as saying by The Mirror.
"No wonder they think he is the best defender in the league."
Van Dijk was the Man of the Match in the Champions League final last year and has been sensational in current campaign, where Jurgen Klopp's runaway leaders are on the verge of winning the Reds' first league title for 30 years.
And Liverpool legend Steve Nicol simply does not buy Ballack's statement and believes Van Dijk, with his physical and technical qualities, would have no problem dealing with some of the best the Premier League has had to offer.
Nicol told ESPN FC: "Well I'm interested to know which part of his game he's not happy with because if you're looking for a physical battle, are you telling me that Van Dijk couldn't beat anybody up physically? Even Drogba?
"It would be great to watch but don't tell me that Drogba would walk all over him physically.
"Pace-wise I don't remember seeing anybody, whether it's the Premier League or the Champions League, running past this guy. So that's not a problem.
"Can he pass the ball? Yes, he can pass the ball. I'd love to know which part of Van Dijk's game he thinks would be susceptible to any of these strikers that he was talking about."