Van Dijk could play for Barcelona or Real Madrid - Lennon

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Southampton's Virgil van Dijk has the talent to become the best defender in the world at Barcelona or Real Madrid, according to former boss Neil Lennon.

The Hibernian manager was in charge at Celtic when Van Dijk arrived in Scotland and was quickly impressed by the defender, who moved on to Southampton in the Premier League in 2015.

And while the Netherlands international has been linked with a number of top English clubs, Lennon believes Van Dijk can aim even higher.

"Yes, [Van Dijk can become the best defender in the world]," he told Sky Sports. "I think he could play for Barcelona, I think he could play for Real Madrid - it wouldn't surprise me if he took his career on to those pathways.

"The first day he came into Celtic I pulled him to one side after training and said 'you enjoy yourself here because you're not going to be here long'.

"I couldn't believe we got him for EUR2.2million. He was outstanding. I couldn't believe that none of the big clubs took a bite at him before Southampton.

"I believe he could play at any club side in Europe now - he's that good. He's only 24, he's got 10 years in him. He has got everything you want from a modern-day centre-half: he's powerful, he's quick, technically brilliant, he reads the game well, superb in the air.

"So it doesn't surprise me that the big clubs are coming in now - it's just surprising that they have waited so long."

Van Dijk made 21 league appearances in the 2016-17 season, but injury meant that he missed the back end of the campaign.