Former Premier League winner Chris Sutton has suggested that Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk is the third-best player in the world.
The outspoken pundit claimed that there is a 'clamour' for the in-form Chelsea attacker Eden Hazard to get the third prize at the prestigious Ballon d'Or awards in December, if Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi finish in the top-two again. However, his pick would be the 'brilliant' Van Dijk.
The Reds signed 27-year-old Van Dijk from Southampton for £75m in January 2018 as Jurgen Klopp aimed to strengthen his occasionally leaky defence.
After making an instant impact as the Reds reached the Champions League final last season, Van Dijk has helped Liverpool to keep five clean sheets from their eight Premier League matches so far in 2018/19.
Sutton claimed that more defensive-minded players need to be recognised for major awards.
"It may not be fashionable to mention a defender when you have a conversation like this, but when you look at the difference Virgil van Dijk has made to Liverpool then you can see just how good he is," Sutton told BBC Sport.
"There is not an attribute you need as a defender that he does not have - he is quick, strong, consistent and he does not seem to lose his concentration.
"He also has tremendous distribution when he is on the ball, and he reads the game so well. He has got the lot.
"There will be a clamour for Eden Hazard and other attacking players - and I understand that - but Van Dijk has shown the difference a brilliant defender can make to any side."
Two-time Premier League winner Hazard has been in blistering form for Chelsea this season, with the Belgian netting seven goals from his eight matches.
Hazard, who has been touted for a move to Real Madrid, scored a sublime solo goal at Anfield in September which knocked the Reds out of the Carabao Cup.