sport news The greatest defenders ever after Virgil van Dijk lauded as the best by Michael ... trends now

sport news The greatest defenders ever after Virgil van Dijk lauded as the best by Michael ... trends now
sport news The greatest defenders ever after Virgil van Dijk lauded as the best by Michael ... trends now

sport news The greatest defenders ever after Virgil van Dijk lauded as the best by Michael ... trends now

Liverpool took another step closer to landing an unprecedented quadruple on Tuesday after they defeated Villarreal to set up a Champions League final clash with Real Madrid.

With a Carabao Cup in the bag and a Premier League title race to go along with the FA Cup and European finals, many of the Reds' playing contingent stand on the brink of footballing immortality. 

However, former Liverpool striker Michael Owen believes defender Virgil van Dijk has already proven himself to be one of the greatest of all-time.

Virgil van Dijk has been a major star since joining Liverpool

Michael Owen believes Van Dijk is the greatest defender of all time

Michael Owen (right) has called Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk (left) the greatest defender ever

Speaking ahead of the Reds' 3-2 win in Spain, Owen claimed he couldn't identify any weaknesses in the Dutchman, who has been a key part of Jurgen Klopp's defence since signing from Southampton at the start of 2018 for £75million. 

'I think he's the best centre-half of all time,' Owen told BT Sport. 'He's bigger than everyone, he's faster than everyone, he's stronger than everyone, he's brilliant on the ball, he scores goals. I've never seen anything like it.

'The only thing that goes against Van Dijk at the moment – and I stress, at the moment – is his winners' medals. He's only won one Premier League and one Champions League.'

But how does Van Dijk really compare against the masters of defence? Sportsmail looks at the 10 best ever centre backs...

10. Daniel Passarella

When you try to imagine the physical characteristics of the greatest defenders of all time you perhaps don't expect a centre back standing at 5ft 8in to feature in a position where height is key.

But if there are any youngsters hoping to become the next defensive superstar (we all dreamt of becoming strikers didn't we?) then Daniel Passarella is the inspiration that even a relative pint-sized star can climb to the very top.

He was captain of the Argentina team that won the 1978 World Cup and was lethal in front of goal too - finding the net over 150 times during his career.

You would think heading would be his weakness, but according to former international team-mate Diego Maradona he was best header of the ball of all time. Coming from a man who confuses his head from his hand though, we may take that one with a pinch of salt. 

Daniel Passarella captained Argentina to their first World Cup glory back in 1978 on home soil

Daniel Passarella captained Argentina to their first World Cup glory back in 1978 on home soil

9. Marcel Desailly

To highlight just how good Marcel Desailly was it's worth looking at where he ended his European career first.

Approaching 30 years old he moved to Chelsea in 1998 and over the next six years helped establish the Blues as one of the biggest teams in England, becoming captain and winning the FA Cup. Even now he is fondly remembered at Stamford Bridge and this was when he was already past his peak.

Desailly grabbed much bigger honours earlier in his career, winning the Champions League in consecutive years with Marseille and AC Milan - while also winning two Serie A titles with the latter in the early 1990s.

Of course, all those would be trumped in the summer of 1998 when he helped France lift the World Cup. His international centre back partner Laurent Blanc was asked to assess his team-mate's abilities - he described him as 'a monster! He is an absolute monster!'

Marcel Desailly still showed world-class ability even after dropping off his peak best at Chelsea

Marcel Desailly still showed world-class ability even after dropping off his peak best at Chelsea

8. Ronald Koeman

Granted, he should have been sent off for bringing down David Platt in a pivotal USA '94 qualifier... then ultimately cost Graham Taylor his job as England manager by scoring at the other end - but at least we got a legendary football documentary out of it.

But to remember the Holland defender for one infamous game in Rotterdam is an extremely harsh way to judge his overall career.

He was a key member of Barcelona's 1992 European Cup-winning team - even scoring the only goal in the final with a thunderous blast at Wembley.

The Dutchman even won the trophy with PSV Eindhoven four years earlier, and so effective was the defender in front of goal he was joint top scorer of the Champions League in 1994 with eight strikes. Ahead of his time with his attacking ability as a ball-playing defender in an era when you couldn't get away with being a bit lousy in defensive duties.

Ronald Koeman struck the winning goal against Sampdoria in the 1992 European Cup final

Ronald Koeman struck the winning goal against Sampdoria in the 1992 European Cup final

7. Carles Puyol

You think of the great Barcelona teams from this century and the great names that spring to mind are the likes of Ronaldinho, Xavi, Andres Iniesta... and... um... oh yes, that Lionel Messi chap.

As good as Barcelona were going forward (and by 'good' I mean one of the best attacking teams of all time) it would have been largely useless had they been unable to stop conceding at the other end  - even if seven-goal thrillers would have been fun every other week.

A big reason why they were also strong at the back is down to the talents of Spain's World Cup winning star Carles Puyol - who also helped his country to Euro 2008 success, winning 100 caps in the process.

He also picked up three Champions League crowns with Barca, as well as six LaLiga titles. Former team-mate Xavi could probably bring him back into the defence now, at 44 years old, and he would still be good enough.  

Prime Barcelona had rock solid defensive foundations with Spanish star Carles Puyol

Prime Barcelona had rock solid

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