Liverpool legend Steve Nicol has defended Virgil van Dijk from claims by Michael Ballack that the Dutchman is "lucky" to be considered the best in the Premier League.
Former Chelsea star Ballack claimed that van Dijk is only held in such high esteem due to a lack of top class strikers around in the modern day compared to years gone by.
"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 said.
"No wonder they think he is the best defender in the league."
However former Reds star Nicol has dismissed the claims and believes van Dijk would have held his own against any player, including Ballack's ex-teammate Drogba.
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."
While Ballack is not convinced by van Dijk's capabilities, the Liverpool star has received high praise from another defensive great.
Man City's former captain Vincent Kompany played against many of the names Ballack mentioned, and is in no doubt who the top defender of the Premier League era is.
Kompany told BBC's Football Focus : "The reason why I said it is because Liverpool were a great team before Virgil van Dijk arrived.
Source: Read Full Article