English Premier League

World’s most expensive defender Van Dijk can become world’s best, says former boss Claude Puel

Leicester City boss Puel says the Dutch international will find his level now he has moved to Anfield

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 December, 2017, 10:55am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 December, 2017, 8:39pm

Leicester City boss Claude Puel believes Virgil van Dijk has all the attributes to become the best defender in the world following his record transfer from Southampton to Liverpool.

Puel had Van Dijk as his captain at Southampton last season as the south coast club fought to keep the centre back at the club.

The Dutch international finally secured a move to Anfield as the world’s most expensive defender on Wednesday, with British media reporting it was a £75 million (US$100.88 million) deal.

Leicester visit Liverpool in the Premier League on Saturday, with Van Dijk officially joining the Merseyside club when the transfer window opens on January 1.

Virgil van Dijk most expensive defender after £75 million Liverpool move

“He is one of the best defenders in the world and he has all the qualities to become the best. It is fantastic for Liverpool,” Puel said on Thursday.

“He can play in different good teams and it is a good reward for him. At the beginning of the season it is difficult for him because he wants to join another club, but now he will find his level.

“I am happy for him and happy he can’t play against us.”

Even before Van Dijk’s capture, Klopp’s side were well on course for a top-four finish and Champions League qualification thanks to their fearsome forward line.

A 5-0 Boxing Day thrashing of a woeful Swansea side took Liverpool’s goal total to 12 in three games, and extended their unbeaten league run to 11 matches.

If only their defence had not fallen apart in a 3-3 draw at Arsenal four days earlier, Liverpool might be in an even more comfortable position.

Their attack, though, is ruthless.

Roberto Firmino has scored four in Liverpool’s last three matches, Philippe Coutinho three and Mohamed Salah two.

Coutinho’s sublime finish for the opening goal against Swansea gave Barcelona yet another reason to try to buy him in January.

Liverpool managed to fend off three bids during July and August, but it increasingly appears as if the best they can hope for now is to hang on to him until the end of this season.

Puel’s Leicester, eighth in the league table with 27 points from 20 matches, will be looking to end their four-game winless run in all competitions at Anfield this weekend.

“They are a great team with good defenders, midfield and attacking players. They are a complete team. We have to look after our play and try to play our game against them,” Puel said.

“We had good opportunities and good results recently against big teams like against Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham. We like the big occasion.”

Puel confirmed defender Danny Simpson could be sidelined for at least a month with a hamstring injury, while Robert Huth continues to recover from an ankle problem and could feature for the reserve team next month.