Garth Crooks believes Virgil van Dijk should have beaten team-mate Mo Salah to the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year award.
Last week the striker was voted Footballer of the Year for a second time, receiving 48 per cent of the vote beating Kevin De Bruyne and Declan Rice, who finished second and third in the poll.
Salah has been key to Liverpool’s quest for an historic quadruple with the Reds in the hunt for Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup trophies having already won the Carabao Cup.
But former Tottenham striker Crooks believes at the other end of the pitch Van Dijk has been the driving force behind their continued success.
‘It’s not often I disagree with the choice of the esteemed Football Writers’ Association but I was rather taken aback by their decision to award Mohamed Salah this year’s honour of Footballer of the Year,’ Crooks told the BBC.
‘The Liverpool striker is a superstar – of that there is no doubt – and he has had an impressive goalscoring season.
‘However, Liverpool’s best player and, in my view the Reds’ player of the season, is Virgil van Dijk. He should have won the award. Regular readers will not be surprised by my choice as the Liverpool defender features in my team almost on a weekly basis.
‘That’s because Van Dijk is unquestionably the best defender in the world but he does not attract the same attention as Salah because it’s the Egyptian who scores the goals.
‘I appreciate goal scorers better than anyone – my team of the week is often full of them. However this year the Football Writers’ Association has gone for the popular vote but not the right one.
‘Defenders seldom lift this prestigious award. The last time a Liverpool defender won it was Emlyn Hughes. He was not so much a great defender, but an incredible competitor. However, he wasn’t in Van Dijk’s class.
‘Another Liverpool great who the football writers let slip through their fingers was Alan Hansen who was the closest player I have seen to the Netherlands captain in pace, quality and vision.
‘Salah is very capable of winning the Champions League title for Liverpool but he will need Van Dijk to be in the team.’
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