EPL

Kompany thinks Van Dijk is Premier League's best ever defender

By Sports Desk September 11, 2019

Virgil van Dijk has a claim of being the best centre-back in Premier League history, according to former Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany.

Van Dijk was named UEFA Men's Player of the Year last month and the Liverpool defender is firmly in Ballon d'Or contention after inspiring Jurgen Klopp's team to Champions League glory last season.

Liverpool and Van Dijk missed out to City by a point in an unrelenting Premier League title race in 2018-19 that ended with Kompany lifting the trophy for the fourth time in his career.

Now in the early stages of his tenure as player-manager at Anderlecht, Kompany is back in Manchester for his testimonial at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday – a match where the proceeds will go to his Tackle4MCR charity that aims to address the problem of homelessness in the city.

Somewhat fittingly and unfortunately, the frequently injury-ravaged 33-year-old will not be able to feature for a Manchester City All-Stars XI against his Premier League All-Stars due to a hamstring strain.

When discussing where he stood among the Premier League's finest central defenders, Kompany said such setbacks – calf strains were a persistent feature of his 11 years in east Manchester – meant he was fighting a losing battle against some of the greats.

"I never try to put me in any of these categories because these guys have been consistently at the top of their powers," he told a pre-match news conference.

"My journey was completely different. I've never been able to deal with the same tools. I've had a lot of injuries, a lot of comebacks.

"For me not to play this game because of an injury… surely the irony has not escaped anyone?

"That's been my journey at City; that's how they know me. I was always fighting my own battles. I could never compete with anybody else because I could not get the volume of games, but I was able to be substantial for my team and that's the only thing that mattered to me."

Although he was drawn to credit some of his contemporaries from earlier in the decade, Kompany cannot help but be impressed by Van Dijk's prowess.

"I go back to players that really impressed me when I played against them, central defenders [but] I would bring it back to Virgil van Dijk," he said.

"It's a weird one because he hasn't been on the scene for as long as John Terry, Rio Ferdinand – these guys were there for a long, long time - but the signs he showed in the last few years make it obvious that if he had been at the top level for longer, he would be further as well.

"Being a defender is how you make your team more solid. The Liverpool before Van Dijk and after, it is a completely different set-up. I'll give him that [accolade] because of that."

Aymeric Laporte looked primed to assume Kompany's mantle of being City's defensive lynchpin but a knee injury means the France international is facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

It leaves Pep Guardiola short of senior centre-backs after deciding not to replace Kompany, but the ex-skipper believes there is no undue cause for concern.

"Losing Laporte, you lose a big player," he added. "You need them in the bigger games so that's where we'll see [if it has an impact].

"But the key strength of this Manchester City team and what Pep has been able to do is that it is relying more on the system than the individuals.

"If you go back through the last two years, in which the team won five of the available six domestic trophies, they've had to deal with long spells of Fernandinho out, long spells of Kevin De Bruyne out, long spells of myself being out.

"Sergio Aguero as well – big players – and the team has never seemed to collapse."

Related items

  • Rugby World Cup 2019: Can England, Ireland, South Africa or Wales reign? Ranking the contenders to dethrone the All Blacks Rugby World Cup 2019: Can England, Ireland, South Africa or Wales reign? Ranking the contenders to dethrone the All Blacks

    It may not prove to be the case in the long run, but New Zealand feel a little vulnerable going into the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

    Having failed to win this year's shortened version of the Rugby Championship, the All Blacks are no longer the top-ranked side prior to the tournament in Japan.

    Admittedly, they have not suffered a World Cup defeat since 2007, when they were stunned by France in a quarter-final in Cardiff. Their pedigree, plus their strength in depth, means Steve Hansen's side deserve to be considered the favourites.

    Still, there is a glimmer of hope for the rest of the rugby heavyweights. The question is: who is best placed to dethrone the champions? 

     

    1. SOUTH AFRICA

    Could the Springboks be peaking at just the right time? They won the Rugby Championship for the fourth time this year and, after a shocking start against Japan, came as close as any nation to ending New Zealand's march towards a second straight World Cup in 2015. An early crack at the All Blacks in their Pool B opener will give them the chance to land a potentially telling blow. Also, the Boks ruled the world in 1995 and 2007. Now, 12 years on from their previous success, will the trend be repeated? They deserve to be viewed as the main contenders to the defending champions.

    2. ENGLAND

    It cannot possibly go any worse than four years ago, right? Eddie Jones – who was in charge of the Japan team that upset the Boks in Brighton in 2015 – is at the helm and the schedule has aided their campaign, as they have Tonga and the United States in their opening two fixtures in Pool C, giving them a chance to iron out any issues before they round out the stage by facing Argentina and France. The talismanic Owen Farrell is the key – and not just because of his outstanding kicking off the tee.

    3. WALES

    Warren Gatland could finish his spell in charge by doing a Six Nations Grand Slam and World Cup double. The Kiwi reached the semi-finals in 2011 and then the quarters four years ago. The reason they are not rated higher, however, is the list of absentees. Flanker Taulupe Faletau and fly-half Gareth Anscombe are missing due to injuries, scrum-half Rhys Webb is unavailable due to selection rules and attack coach Rob Howley has returned home over an alleged betting breach.

    4. IRELAND

    Like several of his counterparts, Joe Schmidt's tenure comes to an end with the World Cup. His final Six Nations did not go quite to plan, but Ireland top the world rankings, defeated New Zealand less than a year ago (in a game where the mighty All Blacks failed to score a try) and have plenty of experience in their squad. Much will depend on the form and fitness of fly-half Johnny Sexton - can he help the team recapture the form they displayed in 2018? While Pool A looks to be plain sailing, they face the prospect of New Zealand or South Africa in the last eight.

    5. AUSTRALIA

    The beaten finalists from four years ago will be relying on experience to go one better than 2015. Michael Cheika has often seemed on the brink as their head coach, but he raised hopes by beating New Zealand 47-26 in Perth in August. Still, they lost the rematch 36-0 on the road and are minus their leading strike weapon in Israel Folau, who is locked in a legal dispute with the Australia Rugby Union following his sacking for comments on social media. Without him, they will be more workmanlike than eye-catching in attack. 

    6. SCOTLAND

    Scotland are in a pool that, apart from Ireland, looks softer than some of the alternative options. They will not take hosts Japan for granted in their final round-robin fixture and, if they do progress, will have to cause an upset against either New Zealand or South Africa in the next round. Gregor Townsend has plenty of World Cup experience from his playing days, but this is his first in charge of the national team - expect the Scots to be in some highly entertaining contests but the last four looks a long shot.

    7. ARGENTINA

    Los Pumas languish outside the top 10 in the rankings but have made the semi-finals at two of the last three World Cups. The reason they are listed so low here, though, is their group. Only two can progress and having been drawn alongside England and France, Argentina face a challenge to make the quarters. Mario Ledesma's squad is dominated by players from Jaguares, who reached the Super Rugby final for the first time this year, but will lean on the Stade Francais' Nicolas Sanchez to provide control.

    8. FRANCE

    There was a time when France were the team you wanted to avoid in the knockout stages (just ask New Zealand 12 years ago, while they only won the 2011 final 8-7 against Les Bleus). Yet this current bunch are not living up to previous versions, with a distinct lack of flair put down to a domestic game now dominated by big-name overseas recruits occupying key positions. Sure, France have turned it on for the big occasion in the past, but the 2019 squad should concentrate first on making it out of their pool.

    AND THE REST...

    Japan have improved since 2015. Italy? Not so much. The hosts can justifiably think a quarter-final slot is within reach, but the Azzurri look doomed in Pool B alongside the All Blacks and the Boks. Currently placed inside the world's top 10, Fiji will likely have to beat one of Australia or Wales just to make it out of their group. The other nations will hope for damage limitation against the big boys and aim to take points off each other in their remaining fixtures. 

  • Valverde asked for Neymar but Barcelona cautious over more bids for PSG star Valverde asked for Neymar but Barcelona cautious over more bids for PSG star

    Barcelona chief executive Oscar Grau has confirmed Ernesto Valverde asked the club to buy Neymar, as the Spanish champions consider whether to make any future bids to Paris Saint-Germain.

    Neymar was strongly linked with a return to Camp Nou, with PSG sporting director Leonardo confirming the Brazilian was for sale having asked to leave the French capital.

    But despite Barca reportedly making a series of cash-plus-players offers to PSG, no deal could be completed before September 2's European transfer deadline.

    Neymar scored on his first Ligue 1 appearance this term after failing to get his desired move, but PSG ultras have indicated he will not be welcomed back to the fray quickly.

    Real Madrid have also long been linked with a move for Neymar, with Grau unwilling to say whether Barcelona will continue to pursue a deal for the Brazil forward.

    "Neymar was a request from the sports area and the coach and the club did everything in order to get him, albeit in a financially sustainable way," Grau said on Thursday.

    "We made many proposals to PSG. They always rejected them. I don't know if we are going to target him again next summer. Planning for next season will be done in the future.

    "We would have been delighted to have the chance to bring Neymar back, but the terms always had to be reasonable.

    "If some parameters had been accomplished, it would have been possible, but PSG were not happy about losing him."

    Barca also missed out on Matthijs de Ligt, who opted not to follow his Netherlands team-mate Frenkie de Jong from Ajax to Camp Nou.

    "We made him an offer, but he preferred to go to Juve, where Italian taxation allows him to earn a higher net salary," Grau added.

  • Egypt appoint El-Badry to replace Aguirre Egypt appoint El-Badry to replace Aguirre

    Egypt have appointed Hossam El-Badry as their new coach.

    The three-time Al Ahly boss succeeds Javier Aguirre in the role.

    Aguirre was dismissed after Egypt's disappointing performance at this year's Africa Cup of Nations.

    Egypt won all three of their group games without conceding a goal but Mohamed Salah and his side then suffered a shock exit, losing 1-0 to South Africa.

    El-Badry, a former defender who played international football for Egypt, won the 2012 CAF Champions League in his second spell at Al Ahly.

    They were beaten in the final two years ago and he left the club in May 2018 despite winning the Egyptian league title.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.