Colossal Van Dijk deserves ultimate individual honour

Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool celebrates after scoring his team's fourth goal against Watford. Photo: Getty

 Jurgen Klopp was asked earlier this week if he was familiar with the story of Bill Shankly and The Colossus.

To those uneducated in the Anfield myths, it refers to Liverpool's signing of Ron Yeats in the early 1960s, when Shankly invited reporters to take a tour around his centre-half and admire him like the eighth wonder of the world.

Klopp looked bemused as he had not read this chapter in his club's history, but the reference has been appropriate since he signed Virgil van Dijk.

Not since Yeats' introduction into Liverpool's first truly great side has a defender had such an impact.

There were occasions last night where it seemed only a sat-nav would enable Watford's attackers to find a way beyond him, the ease with which he intercepts, shrugs off and then seamlessly turns defence into attack with a pinpoint pass. His headed goals summed up the masterclass.

Troy Deeney knew what was coming, having announced Van Dijk as the opponent he least enjoyed facing earlier this season, the diligent Watford striker in the rare position of looking like he was fighting in the wrong weight class.

No matter how many Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah strikes between now and May - and they were back at their sharpest last night - should Liverpool win the title, it will be Van Dijk's arrival that will be immortalised as the catalyst. He will probably achieve personal history in the process.

Only five times has a central defender been named PFA Player of the Year since the inaugural ceremony in 1974. The first two given the award were Norman Hunter and Colin Todd. Gary Pallister and Paul McGrath were successive winners in the early '90s, and then John Terry in 2005.

Recognition for Van Dijk would typify the evolution of Klopp's Liverpool from the vulnerable buccaneers prior to his recruitment.

They were seeking their fourth consecutive clean sheet here, and while Van Dijk offers the defensive security, it has not gone unnoticed how Fabinho has evolved into the club's most complete midfield shield.

The strength of this spine may see them through the final 10 Premier League fixtures. Such solidity has often made Liverpool more methodical in their title pursuit when necessary - as seen at Old Trafford last weekend.

This was a timely reminder of what they are capable of when they fly.