Liverpool: Jürgen Klopp welcomes Virgil van Dijk’s stunning return to form

Jürgen Klopp gave Virgil van Dijk the ultimate seal of approval by declaring that he has regained the form that made him the best defender in the world.

On that day four years ago, Liverpool’s manager beamed after his club announced they had struck a £ 75m deal with Southampton for Van Dijk’s transfer. That ended a six-month chase for the Dutch captain and the transfer proved transformative.

Van Dijk helped Liverpool win the Champions League and Premier League in 2019 and 2020, but some level of his influence on the team was properly appreciated last season when he was disfellowshipped in October for an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp (left) has praised Virgil van Dijk (right) for his return to form

Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp (left) has praised Virgil van Dijk (right) for his return to form

Van Dijk faced a difficult path following a terrible knee injury in October 2020 following a challenge from Everton keeper Jordan Pickford during a lively Merseyside derby

Van Dijk faced a difficult path following a terrible knee injury in October 2020 following a challenge from Everton keeper Jordan Pickford during a lively Merseyside derby

The way back has been difficult, but Van Dijk has again made a huge impact on Liverpool’s performance – especially in the last few weeks – which shows the success of his rehabilitation program and his own commitment to self-improvement.

Many in Liverpool’s camp believe Van Dijk is working at the same level as he won PFA Player of the Year in 2019 and was nominated for the Ballon d’Or. Other players have made more headlines this season, but the 30-year-old’s influence hasn’t gone unnoticed.

‘Virg was really good, really good … may it go on like this for a long time!’ said Klopp, knocking on the table to ask theatrically that the progress be continued. ‘It is like it is. The rehab went very well, so he came back in very good shape. He needed some rhythm and it was important that he got that rhythm.

“He’s definitely back to his best now. What helps us a lot – and helps him a lot – is that we have options so that we don’t have to push him through in those moments when his body gives a sign that he needs to step aside for a moment. That’s very helpful. So the situation is very good. ‘

Van Dijk has been as bossy this season as it was when he was nominated for the 2019 Ballon d'Or

Van Dijk has been as bossy this season as it was when he was nominated for the 2019 Ballon d’Or

Ibrahima Konate, who took Liverpool too far from RB Leipzig for 36 million in May.

At first there was understandable concern given the severity of the injury he suffered, how long it would take for Van Dijk to reach his full speed, but the fact that Klopp was willing to make such a comment on his form shows his importance to what Liverpool are trying to achieve.

So remarkable was his remarkable persistence that Van Dijk made the £ 75million Liverpool paid for him one of the best deals they got during the Fenway Sport Group era. Quite simply, it enabled them to confidently compete for the biggest prizes.

Manchester City was in the market for Van Dijk, as was Manchester United – although their interest didn’t emerge until the former Celtic star signed his contract on Anfield – but the lure of playing for Klopp was the main factor.

Van Dijk has proven to be a transformative signing for Liverpool, helping them win the 2020 title

Van Dijk has proven to be a transformative signing for Liverpool, helping them win the 2020 title

Liverpool have signed the Dutchman for £ 75m from Southampton and the deal has proven to be a bargain

Liverpool have signed the Dutchman for £ 75m from Southampton and the deal has proven to be a bargain

“The arrival of Virgil was obviously a big day in our history together,” said Klopp. “It’s a good example of a winter transfer and how it works. A winter transfer works when you want to sign a player either the summer before or the summer after. This is the situation.

“We wanted Virgil in the summer (2017); For some reason we couldn’t do the transfer at that moment, but then in the winter we tried again and were able to get it through. It was a very important day and it changed a lot for us.

“In combination with Joel, with Dejan (Lovren), with Joey we were suddenly able to defend differently. We were able to make the playing field smaller for our opponents, which was pretty helpful. That’s why we’re really happy. ‘

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