Andy Robertson hailed Virgil van Dijk as the ideal role model for budding defenders after the Liverpool star inspired his side to victory over Manchester United.
Van Dijk’s first-half header set the Reds on their way to a 2-0 win over their fierce rivals at Anfield on Sunday. Jurgen Klopp’s team are now 16 points clear at the top of the Premier League, and boast a game in hand on second-placed Manchester City for good measure.
They have also kept seven successive clean sheets in the league, the first time they have achieved such a feat in 14 years. Van Dijk’s presence can be felt everywhere.
“I’ve got the pleasure of playing next to him and he is a fantastic role model, fantastic player, fantastic centre-half,” Robertson told reporters.
“If anyone is young and up-and-coming I’d suggest watching Virgil van Dijk because he makes it look easy, but that’s all the hard work he has put in. He tries to improve every single day.”
Robertson also took time to single out another of his team-mates – captain Jordan Henderson.
“All the lads are doing fantastic,” he said. “I thought Hendo was ridiculous [against United], the way he played was quite phenomenal.
“Virgil gets a lot of credit so I’ll maybe spread it about a bit!”
Liverpool head to Wolves on Thursday before playing their game in hand away at West Ham next week. They require just 30 points from their last 16 league games to secure a first league title since 1990.
Surely, then, it’s done and dusted now?
“We would obviously love to say yes – but no!” Robertson said. “You are playing against your rivals who you’ve had great battles with over the years and the fans probably want to rub it in a bit. But we’re not getting carried away.
“Until the champions sign is above our heads we don’t believe anything. Yes, the lead is 16 points but we know how tough it gets. We’ve beaten United and in three days’ time we go away to Wolves, who are flying, and it’s an incredibly tough game.
“We know how hard this league is and how the table can change in a couple of weeks so it’s up to us to stay 100 per cent focused and not allow that to happen. If we do then we keep ticking off the games and we hopefully get closer and closer. We can believe once the final whistle of that game goes.”
Of course it is not only the league title up for grabs this season. Liverpool, although they will not say it out loud, are also on course for a historic unbeaten league campaign.
“We don’t think about that,” Robertson insisted. “We go into every game to win. For us that is the aim, because we don’t want to get beat and drop points, but we’ve said it many a time we work game-to-game and it’s worked well for us so why would we change that now?
“Looking too far ahead and thinking can we go unbeaten is pointless. We’ll just focus on Wolves and we go into a tough game trying to get the legs fresh, try and put in a similar performance and try to be more clinical. Fingers-crossed we can do that and then the games start getting less and less and then hopefully we can be champions, but we’re not thinking about that [the unbeaten season].”
He added: “The last 39 games have been incredible but for us it is unfortunate it has not been in one season, it has been across two.
“We keep going, we are on a good run just now, we are confident, seven clean sheets on the bounce is massive and long may that continue. We will let other people say that [the title is won] but I don’t think anyone in that dressing room is believing that just yet. I think we can see that with every performance we are putting in.”