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Scout Who Discovered Virgil Van Dijk Ranks Him A Top-10 Center Back In The World

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The former Celtic scout who first brought the new Liverpool defender to British shores in 2013 on why VVD is destined to be a star.

Liverpool Unveil New Signing Virgil van Dijk Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Before he was commanding world record £75m fees, Virgil Van Dijk was plying his trade with FC Gronigen in the Eredivisie. Neil McGuinness, who was a senior scout at Celtic in 2013, recognized something special in the giant, but nimble-footed center half at the time, pushing hard to secure the Dutchman’s services at Celtic Park for a fee of £2.6m. Two years, as many league titles and PFA Scotland Team of the Year awards later, it was clear the Scottish Premiership was too small a stage for his talent, with the a £13m move to Southampton in the summer of 2015 a natural progression.

Dominant performances, transfer hullabaloos, yada, yada, yada—aaaaand £75m-worth of Klopp Hugs®

Liverpool Unveil New Signing Virgil van Dijk
“Sorry you had to wait so long for one of these”
Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Speaking in an interview with BBC Sport, McGuinness, arguably the person Liverpool fans ought to be thanking the most for the monster addition to the Reds defense, outlined the inevitability that a world record fee would be required to sign a player of Van Dijk’s ilk, as well as why Jürgen Klopp is, by any measure, the perfect manager to realize the Dutchman’s still-untapped potential.

For McGuinness, the key moment was in 2013 watching the 6’4 colossus stuff future 20-goal Premier League striker, Wilfried Bony, then dominating the Dutch league at Vitesse Arnhem, firmly into his back pocket.

“[Bony] at the time was the top scorer in the Dutch league and a really physical striker,” McGuinness recalled. “So it made sense to see [Van Dijk] up against the best forward in the league.

“He basically confirmed to me that day that he could be a successful player in British football. He had pace, power, height, good feet, and could defend.

“Still to this day I am amazed that nobody had taken him out of Groningen sooner.”

A shocker indeed, as the former scout, who now works for the Qatar Football Federation, went on to describe a player—who by all accounts—appears functionally perfect:

“He is tall, imposing and very strong in his aerial challenges, both in attack and defense,” McGuiness gushed. “He has no problems with the physical side of the game and likes to dominate his opponents.

“[He’s] quick both in acceleration and sustained pace over distance. Virgil is good with his feet and has a great range of passing out from the back, both long and short, and he is accurate with it as well.

“He is tall, imposing and very strong in his aerial challenges, both in attack and defense,” McGuiness gushed. “He has no problems with the physical side of the game and likes to dominate his opponents.

“[He’s] quick both in acceleration and sustained pace over distance. Virgil is good with his feet and has a great range of passing out from the back, both long and short, and he is accurate with it as well.

“He can drive forward with the ball at the same time as being able to spot a 50-60-yard pass and deliver it with accuracy.”

Hey, have you seen this? Of course you have. We all have. Many, many times.

“He has strong leadership qualities, always talking on the pitch and he doesn't make that many mistakes which is an area that sets him apart from most central defenders.”

McGuiness ended his assessment with a (grudgingly) encouraging comparison and a prediction that will leave Liverpool fans secure in the future of their back line:

“For me the glowing comparison is Rio Ferdinand. Both are similar shapes, both good with the ball, both quick and strong in the air.

“I think he is in the top 10 centre-backs in the world—and I honestly believe he can go on to be a great at Liverpool.”