Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville named Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk as his player of the year while claiming that 'no-one comes close' to the Dutchman in the running for the award.
The 27-year-old has been imperious since arriving at Anfield in January 2018 for £75m, with this season seeing him play a vital role in Liverpool's title challenge, as they currently occupy top spot in the Premier League having kept the most clean sheets in the league (17) and conceded the fewest amount of goals (20).
Speaking during Sky Sports' broadcast at St. Mary's, where the Reds secured a 3-1 win to return to the summit of the table, Neville has admitted that Van Dijk deserves all the plaudits he gets due to his form for Liverpool.
As quoted by The Mirror, he said: "It wasn’t the signing itself that surprised me, it was the amount. I remember when Manchester City signed Kyle Walker for £50m it left me thinking ‘wow that’s incredible’ and the same with Virgil van Dijk.
"However, watching him in this last 12 months, everyone has given him the praise he deserves.
Honestly, every time I watch Liverpool play, even if Matip misses it or two full-backs aren’t there because they’ve gone forward, he just seems to cover the whole back four - he is a unique defender."
Gary Neville on Virgil van Dijk:— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) April 6, 2019
"He can head, his defending is brilliant, on the ball he's a joke. He passes the ball like a midfielder. One hundred per cent he is the player of the year. I don't think anybody has even got close to him."
Big words from the #MUFC legend! pic.twitter.com/oJbLn6MAon
Van Dijk's performances this season has meant the Reds have a realistic chance of ending a 29-year wait for winning a league title, with the centre-back likely to be in contention for individual awards at the end of the season, as the former Manchester United defender revealed his vote would go to him.
He added: "Varane and Ramos have been the best centre backs in the world for me over the past few years but there is no doubt this guy is going to be up there in the next few years as the best centre half in the world because I’ve not seen a centre half as good for a long, long time.
"In possession play, his passing is a joke. It’s unbelievable, he passes like a central midfield player, for me he’s the player in the team where everyone will say he’s the one that can’t get injured. 100 per cent my player of the year and there’s not anyone else close to him."