Jurgen Klopp hails Virgil van Dijk’s stunning return to form as Liverpool coach claims the Dutch defender is ‘now back to his best’ after his long injury lay off
- Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp has praised Virgil van Dijk for returning to form
- The Dutchman was the world’s best defender when he injured his knee last year
- He is operating at the same level as when he was nominated for the Ballon d’Or
- ‘Virg has been really good, really good… long may it continue!’ said Klopp
Jurgen Klopp has given Virgil van Dijk the ultimate seal of approval by declaring he has recaptured the form that made him the world’s best defender.
It was on this day four years ago that Liverpool’s manager was glowing after his club announced they had agreed a £75million deal with Southampton for Van Dijk’s transfer. It ended a six-month pursuit of the Netherlands captain and the transfer proved to be transformative.
Van Dijk helped Liverpool win the Champions League and Premier League in 2019 and 2020 but a measure of his influence on the team was properly gauged last season, when he was ruled out from October with anterior cruciate ligament damage.
Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp (eft) has praised Virgil van Dijk (right) for returning to form
Van Dijk faced a difficult road back after a horrific knee injury in October 2020 following a challenge from Everton keeper Jordan Pickford
The road back was difficult but Van Dijk – particularly in recent weeks – has been exerting a huge influence of Liverpool’s performances once again, which demonstrates the success of his rehabilitation programme and his own commitment for self-improvement.
Many within Liverpool’s camp believe Van Dijk is operating at the same level as when he won the PFA Player of the Year award in 2019 and was nominated for the Ballon d’Or. Other players have attracted more headlines this season but the 30-year-old’s influence has not gone unnoticed.
‘Virg has been really good, really good… long may it continue!’ said Klopp, knocking on the table, to theatrically ask for the progress to continue. ‘It’s like it is. The rehab worked really well, so he came back in really good shape. He needed some rhythm and it was important he got that rhythm.
‘He’s now back to his best, for sure. What helps us a lot – and what helps him a lot – is that we have options around so we don’t have to push him through in the moments when his body is giving a sign that he needs to step aside for a moment. That’s very helpful. That’s why the situation is very good.’
Van Dijk has been as imperious this term as when he was nominated for the Ballon d’Or in 2019
Ibrahima Konate, who Liverpool signed from RB Leipzig in May for £36million, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip – plus Nat Phillips – have given Klopp the luxury this season of taking Van Dijk out of odd games when the calendar has been punishing, to save pushing him too far.
There were understandable concerns initially, given the severity of the injury he suffered, how long it would take for Van Dijk to get up to full speed but the fact Klopp was prepared to make such a comment about his form illustrates his importance to what Liverpool are trying to achieve.
Such has been his remarkable consistency, Van Dijk has made the £75million that Liverpool paid for him one of the best pieces of business they have done during the Fenway Sport Group era. Quite simply, it enabled them to compete with confidence for the biggest prizes.
Manchester City were in the market for Van Dijk, so, too, were Manchester United – though their interest only emerged once the former Celtic star had signed his contract at Anfield – but the lure of playing for Klopp was the factor that proved decisive.
Van Dijk has proved a transformative signing for Liverpool, helping them win the 2020 title
Liverpool signed the Dutchman for £75m from Southampton and the deal has proved a steal
‘Virgil’s arrival was obviously a big day in our common history,’ said Klopp. ‘It is a good example for a winter transfer and how it works. A winter transfer works when you either wanted to sign a player the summer before or the summer after. That’s the situation.
‘We wanted Virgil in the summer (of 2017); for some reasons we couldn’t do the transfer at that moment but then in the winter we tried again and could get it through. It was a very important day, it changed a lot for us.
‘In combination with Joel, with Dejan (Lovren), with Joey, we all of a sudden could defend in a different way. We could make the pitch smaller for the opponent so that was pretty helpful. That is why we are really happy.’