Neil Lennon: 'Virgil van Dijk could be best defender in world'

Lennon: 'Van Dijk could be best in world'
© SilverHub
Former Celtic boss Neil Lennon says that Southampton's Virgil van Dijk has the potential to become the best defender in the world.

Former Celtic boss Neil Lennon has claimed that Southampton's Virgil van Dijk has the potential to become the best defender in the world, and has tipped the Dutchman to play for Barcelona or Real Madrid.

Lennon, now in charge of Hibernian, brought Van Dijk to Celtic from Groningen in 2013, and the 25-year-old spent two years in Scotland before joining Southampton in the summer of 2015.

Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea are all said to be interested in signing the Netherlands international this summer, although it is understood that Southampton will not consider any bids of less than £70m.

"Yes, [Van Dijk can become the best defender in the world]," Lennon told Sky Sports News. "I think he could play for Barcelona, I think he could play for Real Madrid - it wouldn't surprise me if he took his career on to those pathways.

"The first day he came into Celtic I pulled him to one side after training and said 'you enjoy yourself here because you're not going to be here long'. I couldn't believe we got him for €2.2m (£1.9m). He was outstanding. I couldn't believe that none of the big clubs took a bite at him before Southampton.

"I believe he could play at any club side in Europe now - he's that good. He's only 24, he's got 10 years in him. He has got everything you want from a modern-day centre-half: he's powerful, he's quick, technically brilliant, he reads the game well, superb in the air. So it doesn't surprise me that the big clubs are coming in now - it's just surprising that they have waited so long."

Van Dijk missed the last four months of the 2016-17 campaign with an ankle injury.

Virgil Van Dijk in action during the Europa League game between Southampton and Hapoel Be'er Sheva on December 8, 2016
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