Liverpool defender and Dutch national team captain Virgil van Dijk has been criticised by Dutch legends Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit for his recent performance for the side.
The 31-year-old is considered one of the best defenders on the planet after several years at the highest level with Liverpool. He was part of the Liverpool team that won the Champions League and Premier League titles in 2019 and 2020 and was also in the Reds team that went close to winning a historic quadruple last season.
However, his quality has been questioned after mistakes slipped into his game this season. He had a game to forget in the heart of defence during Ronald Koeman’s first game back in charge of the national team as France defeated them 4-0 in their Euro 2024 qualifier on Friday.
Although Van Dijk and the national team fared better in their next game against lowly Gibraltar in a 3-0 win on Monday, his performance in the previous game was called up by Van Basten, who believes he is not fit to wear the national team captain’s armband because he does not communicate enough.
“He makes noise, but he doesn’t say anything,’ Van Basten told Ziggo Sport via VI.
“He is not clear. A good captain thinks aloud, makes it clear what is going on. He stays in between. He creates chaos. That leads to misunderstandings. That is what you, as a captain, must prevent.
“In the dressing room, he is good, football tactically and technically not. You need another gentleman on the field. This has nothing to do with that injury. This has to do with leadership. He makes noise, but he says nothing. That’s true. This is in you. This is wanting to win at all costs.”
Fellow Dutchman and pundit Ruud Gullit backed up Van Basten’s claims about Van Dijk, accusing the defender of arrogance and ‘playing safe’.
“It’s walking backwards,” he said.
“In England, they have already criticised him. He was selected for the world team of the year. He thinks he’s better than the rest.
“We see things… Then I think, “you are the captain. You have to solve this”.
“But he’s just commenting a little on what’s happening in front of him.
“I don’t know if he’s doing it, but it doesn’t look like he’s speaking. He plays so safe. Come on now. You’re so big and good. It is a positive criticism that we give. Isn’t he the best? Then show it.”
Van Dijk has hit back at the criticisms, claiming that players can’t be expected to stay at a high level always.
“This is of no use to me”, he told reporters. “Everyone is allowed to have their own opinion these days. That’s the case. Did I set the bar unrealistically high? How is that possible? I was never perfect; constant is the right word. They know that better than anyone that, footballers have high peaks and deep valleys.
“It’s quite normal that you can’t always play consistently. That you have a phase as a club or player where you are looking for your level. People should not forget that.
“It is normal that people make mistakes, that it is part of football and that it is very human. Regardless of who gets a platform and is allowed to say what, so that things are made big.”
“You know better than anyone when you are doing something right or not,” Van Dijk added.
“These are difficult times at the club, also with ups and downs. I am very positive about the future and try to play my best game ever every game. We are not robots. Let’s not forget that. Maybe people sometimes forget that.”