Virgil van Dijk improves everyone, say Joel Matip and Juergen Klopp
Klopp and Matip hail Liverpool centre-back ahead of his return to Southampton
Virgil van Dijk returns to his former club Southampton tomorrow morning (Singapore time) with a growing reputation as one of the most influential figures in the English Premier League title race between his Liverpool side and Manchester City.
Previously considered exciting in attack but suspect defensively, the Reds now have the best defensive record in the league.
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp has said that van Dijk's arrival improved his side, while centre-back partner Joel Matip says "everybody improves" when the Dutchman is on the pitch.
Matip told the Liverpool Echo: "He's a great defender.
"And being around him, I think everybody improves.
"He has had a big impact on the improvement. It's great to play (with) him.
"He's a complete defender and he knows what to do."
Klopp agreed that £75 million (S$133.5m) signing van Dijk has improved his side, but added that the club have improved the 27-year-old as well.
He told Liverpool's website: "That's what you expect and hope for when a player is coming in, that he makes the whole team better. That's how it is and that's how good players are...
"He improved us and I think he improved since he was here as well.
"He is a different player to the player he was when he was at Southampton.
"He was good there already - really, really good - but with all the different games he played now and being part of the Champions League quarter-finals, semi-finals and final, that all helps you as a player.
"For a centre-half he is still young, there is still a lot to come. Hopefully, he can stay healthy."
FIT TO FEATURE
According to Klopp, van Dijk will be fit to feature at St Mary's despite suffering a knock during the 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur last Sunday.
The Dutchman was excellent against Spurs and was widely feted for one incident in particular. With the game finely poised at 1-1, Spurs had a two-on-one break, featuring Moussa Sissoko and Son Heung Min against the Liverpool centre-half.
Van Dijk took the decision to leave Sissoko with the ball, forcing him into a shot that the nervous Tottenham man missed hopelessly, paving the way for Liverpool to snatch a dramatic last-gasp winner.
But van Dijk isn't the only former Saint shining at Liverpool.
Said Southampton fullback Ryan Bertrand of Sadio Mane: "I've been really impressed with him, I think he has been their main player.
"I'm sure the other attackers have still produced some fantastic numbers in terms of goals, but I think he has been the one that shines."
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