Liverpool told Arsenal rival is now better than Virgil van Dijk after last season

A former Manchester City star has made a divisive claim about the standing of Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk among his Premier League peers
-Credit: (Image: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Former Bayern Munich and Manchester City star Daniel van Buyten has asserted that he now feels William Saliba has superseded Virgil van Dijk as the best defender in the Premier League.

The Dutchman has been a mainstay at the heart of the Reds' backline since moving to Merseyside from Southampton back in January 2018. His signing ushered in a period of landmark success at Anfield, with Van Dijk's performances elevating the side's fortunes as they won practically every major honor over the ensuing six campaigns.

After playing a pivotal role in successes including the club's Champions League triumph in 2019 and their Premier League title win in 2020, the 32-year-old was appointed as Liverpool captain last summer. The colossus excelled while wearing the armband too and was arguably the Reds' best player across 2023-24, leading his troops to Carabao Cup glory in February.

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However, former center-back Van Buyten is convinced that Arsenal's Saliba has now overtaken Van Dijk in terms of his standing among his peers on account of his performances for the Gunners in the last year. The Frenchman marshalled his defense expertly as the North Londoners conceded the least goals of any team in the English top flight last term with 29 - en route to finishing as runners-up.

Speaking to the FIVE YouTube channel, the retired Belgian said: "I think for two or three years Van Dijk was for me the number one,” said Van Buyten. “But the last season I think he was a little bit more down. [William] Saliba had a very good season and [Antonio] Rudiger is hard, maybe a little bit crazy, but he did a good job."

Despite these remarks, it appears that Saliba himself still believes that the Liverpool skipper still has the edge on him currently, telling L'Equipe: "I think I am in the top three [defenders in the Premier League]. We finished with the best defence. Virgil van Dijk has an aura. He’s the boss, he commands everything. You can feel that he scares attackers, but I’m starting to feel the same way."

Arsenal defender William Saliba has received high praise from one former Manchester City star
Arsenal defender William Saliba has received high praise from one former Manchester City star -Credit:Getty

Either way, there is no doubting the Netherlands star's continued importance to proceedings on Merseyside, with the captain the first player new Reds head coach Arne Slot contacted following his appointment. The boss explained: "I've reached out to a few of them – all of them after Jürgen left, because I thought that was really important to be fair to Jürgen and be fair to the players.

"Because they had to end the season and I don't think I would be really happy if my successor would have called players before I left the club. Then I think it's normal to start with the captain, which is Virgil [van Dijk], which is an easy one for me because we could speak Dutch!

"And from there on I called a few others, but not many of them because most of them are in preparation, or at this moment playing, at the Euros, and some others are in preparation at the Copa America. So I think the best way is to keep a certain distance but also be interested in them as well."

Slot then added: "And hoping that most of them – especially the Dutch! – will still be as long as possible away so they will reach the final. Then afterwards I will get to meet them and I think that's a better way of getting to know each other than by phone or Zoom meetings."