The Liverpool centre-back missed nine months of action after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his right knee towards the end of 2020, when he was on the receiving end of a heavy challenge from Jordan Pickford in the Merseyside derby.
That came only a few months after Van Dijk had played a leading role in Liverpool winning the Premier League title in the 2019/20 campaign, a year on from their Champions League final win over Tottenham.
In 2019, the Dutchman was named UEFA Men’s Player of the Year, the only defender to ever win the award, and he was just pipped to the Ballon d’Or by Lionel Messi.
Van Dijk has not been able to reach those heights since returning to the pitch two years, with the 32-year-old admitting his “world collapsed” at the time.
While Foster believes Van Dijk has lost some of his pace, the former goalkeeper has insisted that no defender in history can match the Liverpool star’s levels before his injury.
“Some people would say about longevity, but I still think in the whole pantheon of centre-backs, this guy stepped the game up a little bit, I really do,” Foster told his Fozcast podcast.
“Virgil van Dijk. I think for three years in a row, he was the best centre-back in the world. He had a bad injury and is probably still finding his feet from that.
“Virgil van Dijk, peak of his powers, is the best defender that has ever lived. I genuinely believe that. When Liverpool are winning the Champions League and Premier League, Virgil is the number one.
“People have just got short memories and the cruciate ligament injury has probably taken a yard of pace off him.”