FORMER Celtic central defender Virgil van Dijk has been hailed by Holland manager Ronald Koeman.
The Dutch gaffer admitted he is “really proud” to have the £75million Liverpool star as the captain of his national team.
The pair worked together for a year at Southampton after Koeman paid £13million to buy Van Dijk from the Hoops in the summer of 2015.
The 28-year-old has since won the Champions League with Jurgen Klopp’s Anfield side and picked up the European Player of the Year award for 2018/19.
Koeman selected Van Dijk as skipper for his nation last year and the manager, speaking to Sky Sports News, said: “He has a great personality and also one of the reasons he is the captain. He is an example for the team and an example for the nation.
“We are really proud to have him as a captain in the national team.
“Winning the title of best European player is an incredible achievement for him.”
The Dutch national team have endured a tough period recently, missing out on qualification for both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, but Koeman’s side are on the rise after reaching the Nations League Final and beating Germany 4-2 away from home to boost their Euro 2020 prospects.
Koeman is now preparing his team for tomorrow night’s Euro encounter against Northern Ireland in Rotterdam and added: “They have a great ambition. Maybe in Holland we have the better players in big clubs in Europe but that doesn’t always make a team strong.
“I was impressed with Northern Ireland and how they played against Germany at home. For one hour in the game they were the better team, created the better chances and had an unbelievable spirit.”
ARMSTRONG OKO-FLEX, the young Celtic prospect, has joined the Ireland Under-19 squad.
The Hoops forward was born in Dublin, but his family moved to London when he two years old. He was introduced to the Arsenal Academy and played for England and Ireland at Under-15 and 17 level. He is also eligible to play for Nigeria.
Brendan Rodgers brought the exciting youngster to the champions last summer and, although he is waiting for a first-team appearance, he made the substitutes’ bench against Kilmarnock in February.
The Irish have arranged two friendlies against Denmark on Friday and Monday.
DAVIE WEIR insists it is crucial for Rangers to win their first major silverware in eight years to give them the confidence to halt Celtic’s surge towards nine titles in a row.
The former Ibrox skipper, who picked up eight honours, believes the Betfred Cup could be the springboard to Premiership success.
Weir, speaking to the Scottish Sun, said: “Winning a major trophy again means everything to Rangers.
“All the focus has been on the league, nine and 10 in a row, but Rangers just need to get back to winning trophies.
“It’s been too long since they won a serious, real trophy. They need to win a trophy that the fans consider to be a success. Winning one this season would start to build momentum and would be a step forward.
“Rangers hasn’t been built on that. They are used to winning leagues and doing well in Europe, but winning a Cup would be relative success and would take them towards the next step of winning the league.
“You can’t always get the main prize straight away but a cup would be a good start.
“Another year with no trophies would be really disappointing.”
Gers face another of Weir’s former clubs, Hearts, in the Betfred Cup semi-final on Sunday November 3 while holders Celtic face Hibs the previous evening.
STEPHEN ROBINSON, the Motherwell boss, has emerged as a candidate for the managerial vacancies at English Championship sides Barnsley and Millwall.
Barnsley sacked Daniel Stendel after sliding to 23rd place in the second tier after one win in their last 11.
It is understood the Fir Park gaffer is under consideration after leading Well to third place in the Premiership.
Robinson, who had a brief spell in charge of Oldham, is also on a list of candidates for Millwall after the departure of Neil Harris last week.