James Ward-Prowse names one Premier League star whose ability made him feel ‘depressed’

James Ward-Prowse of West Ham United looks on during the UEFA Europa League 2023/24 Group A match between West Ham United FC and FK TSC Backa Topola
-Credit: (Image: Vincent Mignott/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

West Ham star James Ward-Prowse has confessed how time spent alongside Virgil van Dijk at St Mary's could be downright "depressing".

Everyone at Southampton knew they were onto a bargain when they snapped up Van Dijk from Celtic back in 2015. The 32-year-old - who is captaining the Netherlands at Euro 2024 this summer - quickly became recognised as not only one of the best defenders in the Premier League but in the world.

However, it wasn't just Liverpool centre-half Van Dijk's defensive prowess that caught the eye; his physicality was a source of envy among his peers. Ward-Prowse - who joined the Hammers from the Saints last year - spoke to Ben Foster on the Fozcast (via the Liverpool Echo) about how Van Dijk's natural gifts were on a different planet to just about all of his squad mates.

"It's depressing," he said of his time together with Van Dijk. "When Virgil got to Southampton, you'd be in the gym after lunch, doing your leg weights, trying to get quicker, trying to get stronger - but he just had everything. He'd just be walking to his car with his washbag [and say], 'See ya lads!'

"You're there grafting away, trying to improve yourself, but he just had it all. [Naturally] quick, strong, and when he came to the club, he tried to take a few free-kicks as well. So I thought, 'Ooh, I've got a bit of competition here'."

Fraser Forster played alongside Van Dijk at both Celtic and Southampton and previously told the Fozcast of the Dutchman's exceptional abilities. Ward-Prowse clearly agreed with that sentiment, adding. "I think that physicality he's naturally got [makes him elite], but he's just so calm and composed.

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"He never looks rushed. Even when he's one on one with a player, he's almost giving them the line to say, 'Go on, you're not gonna do me here'. That's the quality and sort of arrogance he has, and that's class."

He went on to say no-one at St Mary's "was in any doubt" Van Dijk would go on to achieve huge success at the highest level, which has come to fruition at Anfield. The Netherlands talisman has won every major honour possible with Liverpool, including the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, two League Cups and the FIFA Club World Cup.

Van Dijk's future at Anfield remains uncertain as he enters the final 12 months of his contract, and former team-mates' comments demonstrate just how keen Arne Slot will be to keep him. Reports have suggested Borussia Dortmund are interested in the player, while a move to Saudi Arabia has also been mooted.