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Virgil van Dijk Opens Up on the Grind and Pressure of Professional Football

The Dutch international says it’s the nature of the game at the highest level and that he doesn’t let it get to him.

Netherlands v Peru - International Friendly Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Given the opportunity, just about anyone would trade their job for that of a top professional athlete. And few professional athletes—who do, after all, do have a say in the matter—would ever consider giving it all up for a quiet, less lucrative career.

Still, even a dream job comes with complications and sacrifices, which Virgil van Dijk talked about this week after joining up with the Dutch national team and being asked about the pressure and criticism that comes with being a top footballer.

“Every three days a match, a day off in a month, and continuous training, competition, and recovery to get your body fit again,” said Van Dijk in an interview with De Telegraaf when asked about the sometimes grinding nature of the game.

“At the highest level you have the Premier League, the FA Cup, Champions League, and then the Nations League with Oranje—plus there is all the traveling. So there is a lot of pressure, yes. It is important that you are free in your head.”

With Liverpool at least Van Dijk seems to have not just coped with the pressure but excelled under it, though while Liverpool fans point to him as the cornerstone of a vastly improved defence, he has struggled in recent outings with the national team.

In particular, he faced criticism during the September break when he was blamed for France’s second goal as Les Blues defeated the Dutch 2-1. For club or country, though, Van Dink says that doesn’t bother him—it’s just part of the job.

“No, it does not bother me,” he added. “There are times when I am less sharp. I work on that and look for help from my coaches and fellow players. It happens to every player, but it’s about whether the moments is punished.”