The world’s costliest defenders, Harry Maguire and Virgil Van Dijk, do not just have their price tags similar. Both are among the finest centre-backs plying their trade in world football currently and play for English rivals Manchester United and Liverpool. They’ve risen up the ladder expeditiously, with the United defender already captain of the club after the departure of Ashley Young.


Van Dijk is also one of the captains at Anfield, given his natural prowess in leading men. Let’s move on and take a comparative look at the effect both men have had on their respective clubs.


The Dutch centre-back came to Anfield for a massive £75 million from Southampton, a world record then. The club made it to the Champions League final in 2017-18, losing the final. An year later, they went all the way, defeating fellow English club Tottenham in the showdown. Needless to say, Van Dijk had a stellar campaign with tremendous impact in the journey to the podium.

Following Van Dijk’s effect on Liverpool, Manchester United did not waste time. In the summer of 2018, the Red Devils splashed a new record fee of £80 million to Maguire from Leicester City. He grew into a pivotal role in his debut season and has formed a formidable partnership with Swede Victor Lindelof in the heart of United’s defence.


Both are aerial bullies, with Maguire winning 136 of his 190 attempted aerial duels this season (71.5 percent), which comes to 4.7 duels won per game. On the other hand, Van Dijk beats him mildly, with a win percentage of 75.2 (143 wins of 190 attempts), with 4.9 aerial duel wins per game.


Maguire, however, outperforms Van Dijk in both tackles and interceptions, proving that he’s not just capable aerially, but also reads the game better. The United captain averages 1.1 tackles and 1.8 interceptions per game, whereas the Liverpool star posts numbers of 0.8 tackles and one interception per match.


While attempting tackles and interceptions, Maguire has collected four yellow cards so far this season. Van Dijk has a better disciplinary record, with just one yellow card to his name.


Modern football expects its defenders to be capable ball players as well, and both defenders are more than capable of this. Van Dijk has completed 2210 of his 2478 attempted passes so far this season, with an excellent pass accuracy of 89.2%. The Netherlands international also makes an average of 85.4 passes and 0.2 key passes every game, which sits well with Liverpool’s style of high intensity game-play and building from the back.


Comparatively, Maguire has made 1553 successful passes out of 1823 attempts at a success rate of 85.2%. The English defender attempts 62.9 passes per game on average but outdoes his Liverpool counterpart when it comes to key passes. Maguire averages 0.5 every game, pretty high for a central defender.

Liverpool have the best defence in the league, with just 21 goals conceded. Van Dijk has made Joel Matip and Joe Gomez better defenders and playing with him also gives a lot of added security to the midfield of the team and freedom to venture forward.

Manchester United, too, have seen Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelof get better with Maguire’s maturity and calm demeanour. In the first 26 matches of the Premier League, Lindelof and Maguire together have not made a single error this season leading to an opposition shot on target. Virgil van Dijk and Gomez have made two such errors in much fewer games (14) played together this season.

Both Maguire and Van Dijk are having terrific seasons at their respective clubs, with Herculean effects on their defences. While Maguire is part of a still ameliorating project at Old Trafford, van Dijk has completed the jigsaw puzzle Jurgen Klopp started at Anfield in 2015.

(All stats prior to the lockdown and only in the Premier League)

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