Although narrowly missing out on the Ballon d’Or this year, Virgil van Dijk still has quite a lot to be proud of.
His progress so far at Liverpool is legendary and it is safe to say he is their lucky four-leaf clover. Fittingly, when he joined Liverpool in 2018 from Southampton, the world-class defender knew exactly which squad number he wanted – 4.
Many are witnesses to van Dijk’s extraordinary talent, such as Danny Murphy who claimed in an exclusive interview: “He [van Dijk] has made the biggest impact on a team in the Premier League, he has been huge and it’s hard to believe how much Liverpool’s defence has improved since his arrival. His leadership qualities make him the full package as a footballer, there’s not a weakness to his game.”
Ultimately, it wasn’t a difficult decision for Van Dijk to take the number 4 shirt, as he explained. “I had number 4 when I played for Groningen back in Holland, so I was always a big fan of number 4 anyway.
“Unfortunately at Southampton, my good friend Jordy Clasie had number 4, so I didn’t want to take it from him! I just like number 4. Obviously here, Sami Hyypia had it here as well and played for my team where I played ten years in Holland, Willem II, so it’s a bit special.”
Completing a stunning £75m move to Anfield, it seems like a terrific bargain since van Dijk ended up to be Liverpool’s defensive saviour. In April, he was named PFA Player of the Year, while in August he picked up the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award ahead of Lionel Messi and Ronaldo. He was, at time of writing, the odds-on favourite to win the Ballon d’Or, too.
The number has had a mixed run in Liverpool history over the last quarter-century. Steve Nicol was the first to wear it as a squad number in 1993, having first worn it in 1987, and he won the Football Writers’ Association Football of The Year Award in 1989. Jason McAteer inherited 4 at Anfield in 1995 and he was followed by Rigobert Song.
Sami Hyypia, who had initially worn number 12, then took the number 4 and his 10-year stint with the Reds included a Champions League title in 2005. Fan-favorite Kolo Toure carried it in his three-year spell. Although number 4 has worked out tremendously for van Dijk as well, such is not the case for previous players who sported number the digit.
Alberto Aquilani, a high-profile signing at the time, who wore the number during part of his time at the club, came in with high hopes and expectations but never fulfilled them at Anfield as injuries derailed his promising career. Raul Meireles and Nuri Sahin were similarly forgettable.
Fortunately for the Reds, Virgil van Dijk has exceeded expectations since his arrival at Anfield and continues to surprise and shock with his world-class defending. Since January 2018, van Dijk has transformed a leaky defence that used to concede comical goals into one of Europe’s most solid back-lines.