Former Manchester City midfielder Nigel de Jong has praised his Dutch compatriot Virgil van Dijk for his impact on Liverpool's team during his first year at the club.
The current Al Ahli midfielder has also claimed he is surprised by how much the defender has improved since moving to Anfield in January last year for £75m.
Van Dijk made his 50th appearance for the Reds during Saturday's victory away at Brighton in the Premier League. The 1-0 victory also saw Liverpool complete their 23rd clean sheet in the 50 games of which the Dutchman has featured in their side.
De Jong, who won a Premier League title with Liverpool's title rivals Manchester City, has lauded the role of Virgil van Dijk in Liverpool establishing a seven point lead over the Citizens, whilst also claiming that the central defender has come a long way from his days at Celtic and Southampton.
Speaking to beIN sports (via Inside Futbol) De Jong was asked whether he was surprised by Van Dijk's performances: "I would love to say ‘No’, but ‘Yes’, I’m kind of surprised.
“I know him as a player from the national team and also as a player he was at Celtic, but if you see how composed he is right now, I don’t think a lot of people in Holland would say yes, I have seen that happening.
“He is an amazing force for Liverpool and by far their leader on the pitch when it comes to the defence, but (also) I think all over the pitch.”
The influence of Van Dijk is most visible when comparing Liverpool's defensive statistics from this season to the same stage of last season. After 22 games during the 2017/18 season, Liverpool had conceded 25 goals after 22 games, compared to just ten this campaign.
Liverpool will hope to maintain their blistering pace at the top of the Premier League as they take on Crystal Palace on Saturday at Anfield.