If you are looking for a high-class centre-back in the Premier League at this moment in time, most will state that you need look no farther than Liverpool’s £75million man, Virgil Van Dijk. Van Dijk epitomises the modern defender: strong, intelligent and composed with the ball at his feet. At the age of 27, it is likely that Van Dijk is yet to reach the peak of his powers. In contrast, Manchester City’s stalwart, Vincent Kompany, is nearing the end of an illustrious career at the mature age of 32. However, despite his age, he still manages to make appearances in one of the greatest teams that the Premier League has ever seen.
If you were to ask who the best of these two centre-backs is, based on current form, then one would have to hand the title to Van Dijk – above all else he has game-time, thus has more opportunities to illustrate his abilities. However, there is one question that circulates through the mind and electrifies the heart of a football fan: at their respective peaks, who is the better of the two? Now, this question in itself is bound to accumulate a generous helping of controversy, as one could argue that it is possible that we are yet to see Van Dijk’s peak, thus for this debate to commence we must view the present day as being Van Dijk’s optimum ability level.
The cliché of ‘being made of glass’ is often pinned upon Kompany due to his misfortune in his experiences of injuries. In his 8 years wearing Manchester blue, Kompany has officially missed over 120 games and almost 800 days through injury. In contrast, Van Dijk has missed a miniscule 1 game and 6 days during his time at Liverpool. However, this data can be somewhat misleading as Van Dijk has yet to gain a whole season under his belt at Liverpool. This being said, it is perhaps more useful to compare Kompany’s results to Van Dijk’s record of missing almost 30 games and over 240 days throughout his 6-year senior career. All things considered, it is clear to see that Kompany has cost his club considerably more than Van Dijk in terms of treatment and his lack of ability to be consistently available for selection for the team.
Another factor that must be considered is the achievements and legacy of the players. Kompany has achieved 3 Premier League titles and 3 Football League Cups in his time at City. He has also featured in the Premier League Team of the Season countless times and has been named the Premier League Player of the Season in 2011/12. In contrast, despite his success in the Scottish Premier League, Van Dijk’s only achievements have been a Champions League Runners Up medal and a place in the Champions League Squad of the Season on one occasion. It is not only the size of Kompany’s trophy cabinet that vastly supersedes Van Dijk’s; it is his legacy – ‘Vince the Prince’ has left his mark on the Premier League and Manchester City in a monumental manner. Kompany will always be known as the leader of the team that won Manchester City their first ever Premier League title; he will forever be known as a part of the final day antics in 2011/12 and he will undoubtedly be remembered as the captain of Pep Guardiola’s record-breaking team in 2017/18. Van Dijk has no legacy – perhaps it is premature to assume that he will end his career devoid of such influence, but it is yet to be seen.
Van Dijk may be a ‘Rolls Royce’ of a defender and may even be the best that the Premier League has to offer at this present time. However, new is not always better. Virgil Van Dijk is indubitably a world class footballer, but at this time he is not at the level that Kompany was at in his pomp. In Vincent, we see ability in abundance, but more importantly a heart and soul that bleeds football; a heart that is always on his sleeve for us all to see and adore. Regardless of his steady decline as the years tick by, he will always typify everything that a player, a coach or a fan would ever want as their captain. This is exactly what Van Dijk should aspire to become and there is no better place and no better manager for him to achieve this under.