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Virgil Van Dijk or Kalidou Koulibaly – Who Is Overrated?

Two years ago my colleague Matheus wrote a superb piece about Virgil Van Dijk. In this article, he presents his case as to why the Holland captain is overrated. This topic, will cause a stir naturally, especially when you have Michael Owen, a former Liverpool legend saying he is the best defender of all time. But this is Michael Owen, so we the sports desk at Sports Courant want to be the voice of reason. With all the footballing thoughts put together, I am looking to explore who is overrated – Virgil Van Dijk or Kalidou Koulibally?. Bear with me for few moments and don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments box.

Virgil Van Dijk

Virgil Van Dijk overrated?

The former Southampton and Celtic player has been getting off lightly for a while for performances that have not been at the usual lofty standards of VVD. The game against Manchester United this season which The Red Devils won 2-1 was an example that the Dutchman has not been of a standard that represents world-class and a player who could be classed as the greatest of all time.

Then there was also the poor performance he produced against Watford in the league title-winning season in 2019 , which saw The Reds well beaten 3-0 on the day. The counter argument would be well, it was a one-off and Liverpool won the league anyway. Games against Arsenal in the Premier League this season, Real Madrid in last year’s Champions League and Napoli in this year’s Champions League, saw Trent Alexander Arnold get a barrage of criticism for not dealing with the initial phase of play, but the second and third phases involve the Dutch captain, and he has not been his positionally assured self like he usually is. Stats provided by the Premier League website shows that Virgil Van Dijk has made four errors that have led to goals in his Liverpool career .

It just feels like a lot of those errors have been in the past few seasons. Harsh to use this a yes stick to beat the Holland Captain with, but he’s playing for Liverpool one of England’s top club sides. 

To make the argument somewhat balanced, Van Dijk against Haaland, who is arguably the best striker in the Premier League and Europe in current form, dealt with his threat effortlessly as the former BVB forward was kept quiet throughout the game. Henry, R9 and Drogba were some elite forwards in years gone by, and VVD faced none of those players. So to say he is one of the greatest of all time lacks substance.

In conclusion, Liverpool are missing a fully fit Virgil Van Dijk. His reading of the game and his pace, two major weapons for the former Celtic man. Due to injury that he’s recovering from, they’re not quite there yet. 

Premium defenders are hard to come by, David Luiz costing Chelsea £50 million from PSG only goes to prove that. Liverpool were at their best when they play a high line. Virgil’s recovery pace and his calmness on the ball were key to how The Reds were.

The former Southampton’s passing ability was another weapon for Klopp’s men. Liverpool across the pitch are struggling and the fact that James Milner (36) and Jordan Henderson, the protection in front of the defence are getting more exposed, is in turn leading to Van Dijk trying things he might not usually. The defence is a problem as manager Jurgen Klopp has tried many combinations this season.

Virgil Van Dijk is a good defender, but not world-class or the GOAT (greatest of all time), like some, will have us believe. Virgil’s stat of 68% tackles won isn’t terrible but for a world-class defender, this should be higher. maybe some time out of the spotlight won’t do any harm for Liverpool’s player of the year in 2018/2019. Matip and Konate are excellent players that can come in and do a job at centre-back.

Kalidou Koulibally

Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibally, in my eyes, was one of the best defenders in the world. Quite a statement and would not help to dispel the anti-Van Dijk rhetoric. English fans, will say the Premier League is the best league in the world. Five to 10 years ago, I would say those fans had a solid case, but now I am adamant SerieA is right up there. Sure, Italy doesn’t have the same money as England, but their domestic football competition is more competitive.

Since Juventus’ domestic dominance has ended, there have been two different winners in the league. In England, the title races have been competitive, but in Italy, more teams are competing for the ultimate prize. I mention all this, as I feel this gives me leverage in my argument. Koulibally is playing at a more competitive level, as it’s more of an even playing field.

Like Virgil Van Dijk, he too is quick, strong and good on the ball. The former Napoli captain was the talk of Europe for the past five seasons but only moved to one of the European heavyweights in Chelsea, arguably due to Napoli Aurelio Di Laurentis getting greedy in his valuation for the former Genk man. In the Champions League, forwards such as Mohammed Salah were marked out of the game.

KK was a one-man mountain that a player as talented as Mohammed Salah could conquer. The Egyptian at the time was leaving everything in his wake. Direct comparison and stats are difficult to be conclusive as the 31-year-old has played far fewer games in the Premier League and has a 65% tackle rate. Liverpool play with a high line and Chelsea with a low block (before Potter’s arrival), which would help any defender.

Playing a low back made Harry Maguire look like Franz Beckenbauer after all. So let’s offer some sort of verdict who is better. For Koulibally, he came into a defender’s paradise and he became the mainstay of a competitive Napoli side. Argue amongst yourselves, but the fact that Kalidou Kouilibally has come and conquered SerieA, one of the testing leagues in Europe, really says something. There were a couple of errors against Arsenal in a European game some three seasons back, but they seemed to be mistakes to prove he is human and has a pulse like the rest of us. Matthijs de Ligt, the highly-rated Dutch centre-back, came and duly left Juventus.

Everything seemed set for de Ligt to succeed, especially as he had stalwarts Chiellini and Bonucci to potentially call upon. 

All seemed ready and set for the former Ajax to replace one of these legends of the game. This point alone I think gives my argument a lot of weight. But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.ReplyForward

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