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Why Was Van Dijk Included in the FIFA Best XI?

Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk has been added to the FIFA Best World XI despite his Liverpool side enduring a torrid 2022/23 campaign.

The Reds have had their worst season under Jurgen Klopp this year and the heights of 21/22 seem like a lifetime ago already. Liverpool are currently battling for a top-four place and their performances this season have ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous.

On the surface, it seems that Virgil Van Dijk should be nowhere near the FIFA Best World XI due to his indifferent form and his side’s recent battering at the hands of Real Madrid.

If we take a look at the Dutchman’s 2022 in more detail, though, we find that his selection makes a little more sense.


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Why Van Dijk Was Selected

It’s important to note that the best XI is decided by those who have performed best within the calendar year, and that the new season only covers a fraction of it. 

Major competitions like the Premier League (and other top domestic leagues) are considered, as well as the Champions League and, depending on the year, the FIFA World Cup. Out of all of these factors, the FIFA World Cup is the most important - hence why Emilano Martinez won the Best Goalkeeper Award despite his average campaign with Aston Villa. 

Van Dijk’s Netherlands reached the last-16 stage in Qatar, where they were eliminated by Argentina on penalties after a fiery 2-2 draw, and the 31-year-old also marshalled a Liverpool defence who lost only twice in the 21/22 Premier League. 

A 92-point Premier League season, two domestic trophies, and a Champions League final appearance were the main reasons behind Van Dijk’s inclusion in the FIFA World Best XI, the members of which were likely already decided before Liverpool’s poor form began. Though he looks out of place in the lineup as of right now, it’s unfair to judge Van Dijk’s past year on his struggles this season. 



Klopp Backing

Jurgen Klopp defended his player’s inclusion in the prestigious squad by stating that it was ‘’fully deserved’’. When we look at Van Dijk’s stellar Liverpool record in 21/22, his nomination makes a bit more sense. 

Liverpool conceded just 26 goals in the Premier League last season and lost just four times in all competitions. Their two league defeats came courtesy of West Ham United and Leicester City, whilst only Inter Milan and Real Madrid bettered them in Europe. The Reds also won both the League and FA Cups and were only a point away from a second Premier League title. 

Liverpool’s drop-off in form is another story in itself, but we shouldn’t allow recency bias to overshadow what has been a banner calendar year for Virgil Van Dijk and Liverpool. 

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V: 1.35.0 All rights reserved. August 2021
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