A cult Reds hero has insisted that the highly-rated Dutchman still has a long way to go before earning a place in Anfield’s hall of fame
Virgil van Dijk needs to spend another “10 years” at Liverpool before he can be considered a “Premier League great”, according to John Barnes.
The Netherlands international completed a record-breaking £75 million ($91m) transfer to Anfield from Southampton in January 2018 and has since emerged as one of Jurgen Klopp’s most important players.
The 28-year-old helped the Reds reach a Champions League final in his first few months on Merseyside, which they lost 3-1 against Real Madrid in Kiev.
Liverpool bounced back with a vengeance in the 2018-19 campaign, engaging in a thrilling Premier League title race with Manchester City while also plotting another run to the European Cup final.
Klopp’s men narrowly missed out on domestic glory but picked up the Champions League trophy after a 2-0 win over English rivals Tottenham in the Madrid showpiece on June 1.
Van Dijk’s presence at the back was crucial as Liverpool progressed to a new level, but Barnes has urged the centre-back to try and reach the same heights over the next decade.
“If he gets transferred to Real Madrid next year, he’s not been here long enough to be a Premier League great, ” the ex-Reds midfielder told bonuscodebets.co.uk.
“Don’t look down the line and say in 10 years I want to be a considered a great, he has to go through the process of being here for that period of time.
“Too many people say they want to be a legend, but you can only be that at the end of your career when looking back.
“You can’t look forward and want to be a legend, you look back and think ‘I was a legend’. I’m sure he doesn’t, but I’m talking about what people are talking about.”
Barnes also insists that Van Dijk must prove himself all over again in the upcoming season, with Liverpool likely to resume a fight for more silverware on domestic and European fronts.
He added: “Van Dijk had a fantastic season but it means nothing now. If he has a terrible season now, what is he? I’m sure he will be fine but he just needs to carry on and be consistent.
“He doesn’t need to improve on anything, just consistency as he’s not been around long enough to judge that consistency.
“How he can improve is to do the same again – because he has then improved his consistency, that’s the key to everything. He brings stability, he is calm, which helps the crowd and now he has to continue to perform.”
Joel Matip and Joe Gomez shared centre-back duties alongside Van Dijk for the majority of last season, while Dejan Lovren is also still an option for Klopp after failing to secure a summer transfer.
Barnes feels Gomez is the best choice to partner Van Dijk long-term, despite confessing that the England defender “still has a lot to learn”.
“I think long-term Joe Gomez will be van Dijk’s partner,” said Barnes. “I think that’s a good partnership but he does have a lot to learn.
“If you look at the centre back partners, we’ve got (Joel) Matip, we’ve got (Dejan) Lovren and we’ve got him (Gomez) alongside Van Dijk. Anybody can do a good job and if not, whoever comes in for him can do a good job.”
Liverpool will be participating in the Premier League curtain-raiser on Friday night, as they host newly-promoted Norwich at Anfield.
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