Rarely do defenders get the credit they deserve on the pitch, however, throughout the years, the role of defenders became more and more important until we reached the point where a team first of all needs a solid defence, before anything else. With the stigma of defenders not as important as the attackers still very much alive, every time the football world puts a spotlight on a certain defender, we can be sure he really earned it with incredible performances.
Two of the defenders that managed to steal the spotlight from their teammates this season were Kalidou Koulibaly and Virgil van Dijk, who are both considered to be two of the best at what they do. However, there can be only one who is THE best, which makes us wonder; who is better Kalidou Koulibaly or Virgil van Dijk?
Who is better Kalidou Koulibaly or Virgil van Dijk?
28 years, Senegal
The 28-year-old Senegalese seems to be built for a defensive player. Standing tall at 1.95m and 89kg, Kalidou Koulibaly doesn’t let many players past him. Not only is he extremely good at tackles, his size and raw strength also help him be a real threat in the air. But his size and strength is not the only thing he brings to the table. Kalidou Koulibaly is known to be incredibly fast, which allows him to catch up to attackers, making their job much harder. Looking deeper into Kalidou Koulibaly’s numbers, the Senegalese is also a player who does not get injured often. In fact, he has only been injured three times in his entire career, with his last injury taking place on December 11th, 2016, and even then he was sidelined for only 2 weeks.
Looking at the statistics for 2018/19 season, Kalidou Koulibaly has played a total of 35 Serie A matches, which is a total of 3134 minutes. On average, Kalidou Koulibaly conceded 0.8 goals per 90 minutes, however, he managed to help his team keep a clean sheet in 40% of the matches, which means Kalidou Koulibaly has 14 clean sheets to his name for 2018/19 season. Currently, the 3th most expensive defender in the world, Kalidou Koulibaly has a market value of €75,00 million, which puts him behind only Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Virgil van Dijk
27 years, Netherlands
Widely considered to be one of the best defenders in Premier League, if not the best defender in the world, Virgil van Dijk is surely a defender no attacker wants to face on the pitch. Much like Kalidou Koulibaly, Virgil van Dijk has a body for a defender. Standing at 1.93m and with 92kg, this Dutch defender is a force to be reckoned with on the pitch. As one of the best additions to the team, Virgil van Dijk played a huge role in Liverpool’s drastic improvement in recent years, which ultimately resulted in two consecutive appearances in the finals of UCL and the title of UEFA Champions League winners.
What makes Virgil van Dijk an exceptional defender is a full package he brings with him. He is fast, strong, has the right technique, flair, incredible passing skills and of course his defensive leadership which makes him one of the most admired players in the world. He is also one of the most expensive defenders.
Virgil van Dijk Statistics
Looking at the numbers Virgil van Dijk achieved in 2018/19 season, Virgil van Dijk has played a total of 38 matches in the Premier League, which totals at 3385 minutes. On average, Virgil van Dijk concedes 0.51 goals every 90 minutes and keeps an incredible 55% clean sheet ratio, which means Virgil van Dijk kept a clean sheet in 21 out of 38 matches he played in. On top of his defensive skills, Virgil van Dijk also scored 4 goals for Liverpool this season, making him the 6th best goal scorer for the Reds.
Kalidou Koulibaly vs Virgil van Dijk
Putting the two players side by side, it would be hard to call out who is the better player, Koulibaly vs VVD. While Virgil van Dijk has better numbers to his name and is valued €25 million higher than Kalidou Koulibaly, there are many other factors that could be considered when we put the numbers on the table. One of the biggest factors that we should take into the account is the fact that the two players play in different leagues. While both play the same role and are approximately the same height, the two players are different in a way. Both have their own characteristics which make them unique. While picking the better player out of two was not an easy job, if we draw a line, Virgil van Dijk does come slightly ahead. He has got the experience, leadership skills and is arguably more valuable on the attack compared to Kalidou Koulibaly.
There is, of course, an argument to be made in favour of Kalidou Koulibaly, who needs more time and new experiences to develop. That is, however, something he just might get next season. Recent transfer news suggests Kalidou Koulibaly could move to Manchester United, Manchester City or even Liverpool, where he would play alongside Virgil van Dijk, which would put Liverpool’s defence on a whole another level. While the dream of him moving to EPL is still very much alive, Kalidou Koulibaly has a rather large €135 million clause in his contract with Napoli, which just might deter the suitors away from this Senegalese defender. Should Napoli negotiate for a lower transfer fee, Kalidou Koulibaly would be a great addition to any team, however, from what we have seen and heard, Napoli are holding onto the €135 million number firmly, which just might result in Kalidou Koulibaly staying in Naples for one more season.
Sports journalist, content writer and passionate football lover.