Sports pundit and commentator Chris Sutton has claimed on Mail Sport’s It’s All Kicking Off podcast that Virgil van Dijk will never be the player he once was before he sustained a knee injury.
Liverpool played Everton in the Merseyside Derby in 2020, and a tackle from England international Jordan Pickford saw the Dutchman suffer a serious knee injury that kept him out of action for nine months.
After emerging as a runner-up in the Ballon d’Or voting in 2019 and winning the Champions League with Liverpool, Sutton said the defender is not at the same level now and he will never be.
Speaking on Mail Sport’s podcast, he said:
“At the start of the season I said the most important part of this Liverpool team was the defence and how that clicked because when they won the league it was to do with how stingy their defence was.
“We just have to accept because of the Pickford challenge, he [Van Dijk] is not going to be the same again.
“He’s not going to suddenly go back to having that pace. And this was after it got to a stage where attacking players just did not know how to beat him. But that’s not the case anymore.”
Echoing these sentiments, fellow Mail Sport co-host Ian Ladyman suggested that Liverpool are two players short of contending for the title this season.
“I wonder if they’re a couple players short,” he said.
“I think they would love a bit of what Arsenal have at the back because there’s just a little bit of chaos about Liverpool’s defending.
“Van Dijk looks like he’s in this state of constant befuddlement at the moment, like he’s constantly confused as things go wrong around him.
“For whatever reason, whether it’s injuries, he is not at that same level he was at when Liverpool won the Champions League against Tottenham.”
He also added that if Liverpool want to become title challengers again, they will need to add another centre-half to Van Dijk as Konate does not seem to be able to hold down a starting space.