Liverpool’s rock deserves the plaudits he is receiving, according to his countryman, while another Dutch defender was singled out for praise

Mario Melchiot believes Virgil van Dijk has earned his spot at the top table of football as the centre-back prepares to lead Netherlands out in a crucial Euro 2020 qualifier against rivals Germany.

Having missed the 2016 Euros and the 2018 World Cup, the Oranje are banking on a team led by last season’s Champions League winner to avoid missing another major tournament.

Liverpool signed Van Dijk for £75 million (€84m/$96m) from Southampton 18 months ago and the defender has had a significant impact on Jurgen Klopp’s side.

The Reds are the favourites to challenge Manchester City for the Premier League title, having finished just one point behind Pep Guardiola’s side with a club best 97 last season.

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And Melchiot, a former Netherlands international himself, believes that Van Dijk deserves to stand alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on the awards podium after he was named the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year for 2018-19 last week.

“The great thing about Van Dijk is that he has a cool head in all situations,” Melchiot told Goal. “I hope he keeps it because it makes him different. It brings ease to his team-mates; it makes him look like he is in control and feel like he is in control.

“When I was watching him in Holland at Groningen, I saw that he was relaxed. He was peaceful and not flash. His city is like that. Then he chose a great journey – he went to Scotland and showed he can handle it.

“Then, in the Premier League, he showed he could handle it with Southampton. [Then] Liverpool came in with big money. Immediately he brought the calmness [that they didn’t have before]. He has speed, strength, technique and he understands the game.

“He can take a striker out of the game and he has a coach that anyone would want to play for. The only thing is, people now see him as a special player. A small mistake will seem like a big mistake, but I don’t think he will struggle with that.

“He is also Holland’s captain. He’s a great player, he brought calmness to Liverpool even in the Champions League final. He has proven himself as one of the best, he should definitely be amongst the top picks for the Ballon d’Or. This could be his moment.”

Another Dutch centre-back impressing in the Premier League is Nathan Ake of Bournemouth. Ake’s performances have seen him linked with a move to Tottenham, but Chelsea are thought to have a £40m ($49m) buy-back option for a player they sold for £20m ($24m) two years ago.

And Melchiot believes that, like Van Dijk, the 24-year-old could be ready to take his game to the next level.

“He is doing really well,” he said. “Sometimes you need that last push to go to a bigger team and prove yourself. He has been in the Dutch national team and at Bournemouth he faces constant pressure.

“It’s not a team that is guaranteed to win but they play good football. They have speed and get a lot of goals, but they’re under pressure. If he has another season of looking steady and dependable, or even performs better, I can’t see him staying there for very long.

“I don’t focus much on transfer fees because the English market isn’t always accurate, but if Chelsea has a £40m clause and he has another good season… you’ll be laughing at how good that fee looks!”