While many gawked at the transfer fee back in December, it’s fair to say that Virgil van Dijk has slotted in comfortably at Liverpool. The Dutchman has slotted straight into the side, with the only debate at center back now focusing on who gets to partner him. One imagines he’s very happy about the way things have gone so far, but there’s one big occasion still waiting for him: the Champions League semi finals.
And it seems the former Southampton man can’t wait.
“It’s very exciting”, Virgil van Dijk told the Liverpool Echo. “It’s the quarter-finals of the Champions League and I’ve never played at this stage before. I’m looking forward to playing in a fantastic atmosphere at Anfield and hopefully we will be enjoying it afterwards as well”.
Perhaps somewhat unusually for a modern footballer, it’s obvious that Van Dijk puts big stock in the traditions of football, such as a big Champions League night at Anfield, saying that he’s “watched big European games at Anfield before and I know they are very special. The atmosphere will definitely help us a lot. It’s down to us as players to deliver on the pitch”.
“We know they are beatable, definitely, but this is a different game. Wednesday is only the first leg. We need to keep our focus and prepare well”.
Ultimately the proof will be in the pudding, with Van Dijk and Liverpool being judged on the result they get against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City over two legs. Nonetheless, these kinds of comments are encouraging, and suggest he will be able to play without fear on Wednesday.
On other topics, he was keen to praise everyone’s favourite Egyptian King, describing Mohamed Salah as “my Player of the Year but I can’t vote for my own team-mate”. Salah has been “so consistent” and “a key player for us”, providing quality “week in, week out”.
As I said, it’s still early days for the big center back’s career at Anfield. There will be many more tests to come, but so far he has looked comfortable in almost all of them, giving every reason to think he is money well spent.