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Who is Liverpool’s most important player – Van Dijk or Salah? 

Liverpool overcame a gutless Chelsea side in extra time to win the 2024 League Cup final last weekend.

Defender Virgil Van Dijk steered in the winner from a set-piece for his 24th goal for the club and arguably most important.

The Reds went into the game with several injury concerns, including Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dominik Szoboszlai, Alisson Becker and Mohamed Salah.

Despite the many setbacks, Liverpool dug deep and found a way past the ‘blue billion-pound bottlejobs’ (h/t Gary Neville).

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was forced to field academy youngsters but their captain led them to victory.

Salah has been Liverpool’s talisman for years, bearing the goalscoring burden for most of his time on Merseyside. He has netted 204 goals in 333 appearances for the club.

His creative prowess is underrated, creating the most big chances in the Premier League (18) this season. He has tallied over 80 assists for the club.

However, when Salah was absent for the 2024 African Cup of Nations, Liverpool did not miss him much as Nunez and Jota stepped up. It was the same in the League Cup final.

This got fans and pundits thinking. Van Dijk and Salah are Liverpool legends in their own right. They have been pivotal players under Klopp, but which player is more important?

Salah’s first season with Liverpool was one for the ages, as he spent most of the campaign shattering records.

The Egyptian king broke the Premier League record for most goals in a 38-game season and scored 42 goals throughout the campaign, establishing himself as one of the best players in Europe.

Despite the individual brilliance, it did not translate to trophies in those early days, as Liverpool finished fourth in the league table.

They reached the Champions League final only for Salah to hurt his shoulder, and Loris Karius delivered an all-time disasterclass that allowed Real Madrid to clinch the title.

The following season, Van Dijk arrived from Southampton in the winter transfer window and immediately shored up Liverpool’s famously leaky defence.

The arrival of Alisson earlier that summer also helped, but Van Dijk stabilised the defence and brought an assuredness that Liverpool’s team has thrived on.

Liverpool returned to the Champions League final in Van Dijk’s first season, and they got their hands on the trophy by defeating Tottenham Hotspur 2-0.

The Dutch centre-back was named the Man of the Match after a colossal performance against Tottenham’s Harry Kane.

The Reds came within a touching distance of the Premier League title but missed out to Manchester City by a point.

Van Dijk’s impact was palpable. Liverpool were always a potent attacking force, and Salah gave them a different dimension, but Van Dijk was a difference-maker.

After struggling to win any domestic cups, Liverpool claimed the FA & League Cup double in the 2021/22 season, defeating Chelsea on penalties both times. Van Dijk helped to shut the Blues out in both games.

In the League Cup final, the 32-year-old even netted one terrific penalty against Kepa Arrizabalaga to help his side win the trophy.

Van Dijk’s 2022/23 season was not up to his usual lofty standards. There was a clear regression.

The consensus was that he’d never be the same again, but the former Celtic star has proven that he is made of stronger stuff, bouncing back to top form and delivering a cup success for his team.

Van Dijk’s calm at the back is the platform for the heavy metal chaos Salah and co are able to create up front. His ability to inspire and organise the defence creates the foundation upon which Liverpool flourish.

His influence extends beyond defensive solidity. His leadership also makes him more important. He is a vocal and charismatic figure that others can look up to.

Salah’s goalscoring exploits are undeniable, but Van Dijk’s leadership, defensive solidity and impact on the overall team’s performance make him more important to Liverpool’s success.

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