Arne Slot told Liverpool already has midfielder better than Jude Bellingham

Ryan Gravenberch has a big admirer in the form of Rafael Van der Vaart
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)

Liverpool might not have seen the best of Ryan Gravenberch yet - but former Dutch midfielder Rafael Van der Vaart still believes he is more talented than Jude Bellingham.

Gravenberch burst onto the scene at Ajax and played a huge role under now-Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag before moving to Bayern Munich. That move did not work out, and he eventually joined Liverpool last summer.

He experienced mixed fortunes during his first Premier League campaign, after Van der Vaart had confidently talked him up as better than England star Bellingham before the move.

"What I think is the big difference (between the two players); Bellingham is a step lower at a club and always plays," Van der Vaart told Ziggo Sport last April. “I think Gravenberch is better than him, in every way. Especially physically.

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"Do you know what is most important when you go to a new club? The first two weeks. You have to show in every training session, every training game that you are a justified purchase.

"It would actually be good for Gravenberch to go on loan to Ajax again. You just have to start playing football."

A few weeks after those comments, Gravenberch joined Liverpool, who missed out on Bellingham to Real Madrid. The latter has starred in Spain, while the Dutchman has not quite hit the ground running at Anfield.

However, speaking to Voetbal International last week, Van der Vaart insisted he sticks by his comparison. He said: “I didn’t expect him [Bellingham] to have such a good season at Real Madrid, but I stand by my comment at the time.

“Bellingham is a great player, of course,” he added. “After all, one career is different from the other. For me, that doesn’t take anything away from Gravenberch’s enormous qualities.”

Despite his glowing assessment of Gravenberch, Van der Vaart has also advised both the player and incoming manager Arne Slot that a change in role might be more suitable. He believes switching to become a defensive midfielder would see him unlock a new level.

In the same interview, Van der Vaart said: “I advise Ryan to opt for a role as a defensive midfielder. That will not be an easy choice for him, because he can do much more. You can compare it with Nigel de Jong in the past.

“Nigel could do much more than the subservient controller he eventually became. But in that specific role he reached an absolute top level. Nigel decided he was going to be a pit bull and that’s it.

“Ryan is also very versatile and I recommend him to make a similar choice. In a role like Patrick Vieira once played at Arsenal and France.”

Gravenberch recently linked up with his national team ahead of the tournament. He was briefly asked about Slot’s arrival at and expressed his belief that it will be good news for his own career.

"I think he can be good for my career," he said. "It's a coach who wants to play good football."