The Camp Nou legend has paid homage to a fellow centre-half, while also saluting the qualities of an all-time great he once played alongside
Virgil van Dijk has been billed as “the complete defender” by a man who knows what it takes to thrive in such a role, Carles Puyol, with the Barcelona legend also labelling Lionel Messi “the best player in history”.
A man who stepped out of the famed La Masia academy system to become an iconic captain at Camp Nou and a World Cup winner with Spain is well versed in the defensive arts.
He was a rock for club and country at centre-half during a distinguished playing career, with his qualities earning him a standing alongside the finest talents on the planet.
Puyol considers Liverpool star Van Dijk to be among those to have followed in his footsteps, with the Netherlands international having become a talismanic presence at Anfield .
“He is the complete defender, always calm, a great player. The spotlight usually goes to the strikers, so it is nice to see a special defender get deserved recognition.”
So impressive has Van Dijk been that he is expected to challenge the established elite for more individual honours this season.
Puyol would not like to pick a winner there, with Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo also back in the mix for a potential sixth Golden Ball.
In the eyes of a Catalan hero, Messi will forever be his pick as the finest player of all time, but there is recognition that the Portugal international continues to push him close in the GOAT stakes.
Puyol added, with Van Dijk competing alongside two modern-day greats: “It’s true that in recent years Messi for me is the best, and it’s difficult to compare to him because to me he’s the best player in history.
“We’ve also had Cristiano who’s a great player. And the two have always been there, and few players have had the opportunity to win an individual trophy.
“Having these two players in this era, he’s [Van Dijk] doing an excellent job and I’m very happy for him.”