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Saliba: Van Dijk’s scary defender


Arsenal star William Saliba has heaped praises on Virgil van Dijk and admitted he is starting to ‘feel the same’ as the Liverpool man.
Van Dijk has become one of the best defenders in the world over recent years, finishing runner up to Lionel Messi in the 2019 Ballon d’Or and winning both the Premier League and Champions League with Liverpool.
Saliba, meanwhile, is nine years Van Dijk’s junior, but has become vital to Arsenal’s impressive defence that has contributed to the Gunners pushing Manchester City all the way in the last two Premier League titles races.
His partnership with Gabriel has become synonymous with his side’s play, and the Frenchman played every minute in the Premier League as Arsenal conceded just 29 goals last season, five fewer than their closest rivals.
Speaking on France duty ahead of the summer’s European Championships in Germany, Saliba spoke of Liverpool captain Van Dijk, who he could come up against during the tournament. 
‘Van Dijk has aura,’ he told L’Equipe. ‘He’s the boss. He commands everything. You can feel he’s scaring strikers away. And I’m starting to feel the same way.’
Saliba, 23, has been more of a fringe player for France, with Van Dijk’s Liverpool partner Ibrahima Konate often prferred in defence instead of him.
He has made the 26-man squad, however, and will be keen to force his way into the side as Didier Deschamps’ side look to bounce back from World Cup final disappointment in 2022.
 The centre back has set his sights high, and, though he knows his ability, wants to carry on improving.
‘I think I am in the top three [defenders in the league],’ he said. ‘We finished with the best defence. I watch a lot of matches. I am a very humble person but last season, just like this season, I am in the top three defenders. 
‘I need to continue to work to go even higher. In terms of concentration, I am a lot better. Before, I could play a top match but in one phase of play, I slept a bit. That is no longer the case. I am always on alert.’
He also backed his club side to push City again next year, but failed to reference Van Dijk’s Liverpool, who finished third last season after falling out of the title race in the run-in of the season.
‘We played against them three times and we made them struggle,’ Saliba said of City. ‘They feel and we feel that we are close to them.
‘Next year, we will have an even better war.’
Gabriel, meanwhile, has named the one club he has always dreamt of playing for.
Amid speculation linking him to a number of Saudi Pro League clubs last summer, Gabriel ultimately opted to remain in North London, and was rewarded for his performances with talks of a new contract towards the end of the campaign, but he may not be with the Gunners forever.
‘My favourite club? Corinthians, that’s since I was born and today I don’t think it has to be any different,’ he told ESPN Brazil.
‘I still go to Corinthians games by train. It’s my dream, I want to play for Corinthians, I want to feel that energy. It’s something to think about. Sometimes I stop and think, “Do I dream of playing for Corinthians?” I do. When would I play for Corinthians? For me, I’d be at Corinthians tomorrow.’

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