STEVE Cook believes Nathan Ake has proved to be the defensive buy of the season, describing as "a snip" the £20million Cherries paid for him.

Cherries shattered their transfer record in the summer to draft in the Dutchman from Chelsea after he had starred during a loan spell at Vitality Stadium at the start of last season.

Ake and Cook have formed an impressive central defensive partnership, having started 26 of Cherries' 33 games in the Premier League this season.

The pair have played a key role in Cherries' run of just two top-flight defeats in 14 games, a sequence which has taken them to within touching distance of securing their status for a fourth season.

Cook, who joined Cherries for £170,000 from Brighton in January 2012, told the Daily Echo: "I think our partnership has improved.

"I love playing with Nathan, he never makes a mistake. He is excellent on the ball and I feel we have formed a good partnership as the season has gone on.

"He has been outstanding all season whereas I have grown into it. Hopefully, we can continue to do that for many years to come.

“I see us as a long-term future and, hopefully, everyone else does as well.

"I know £20m is a huge amount of money, but it is a snip in today's market. Nathan has been worth every penny and more.

“He has only just turned 23. It is an investment and I don’t think it has fazed him at all.

"If anything, he has made £20m look like not a lot of money because he has been outstanding.

“I am really pleased he is here and hope we can keep hold of him and we can form a partnership for years to come.”

Asked whether he was envious of Ake winning no fewer than six man-of-the-match awards, Cook quipped: "Not at all, the only surprise is that he hasn’t won them all!

"He has been excellent and I don’t think he has put a foot wrong all season. He is worthy of every award he gets and I am delighted for him.”

Cook knows Cherries will have their work cut out trying to keep tabs on Liverpool's lethal strike-force when they lock horns at Anfield on Saturday (5.30pm).

He said: "Any game at Anfield is tough but I am really looking forward to it because these are the venues and atmospheres you want to play in.

“Mohamed Salah is an outstanding talent and an outstanding player. He has been amazing this season which is great for the league.

“You want to test yourself against the best players in the world and he is definitely up there. They have a number of excellent players.

“Apart from at home this season, we always seem to have good games against Liverpool. We had a great result there last season (2-2) and will be looking to do the same."