Virgil van Dijk. European champion. World champion. It’s been a good 2019 for him, right?
Well, to an extent. He still lost out on the Ballon d’Or to Lionel Messi. And it seems like it stings for him a little.
“I was slightly disappointed”, Van Dijk told The Mirror.
“I decided I would still go to the ceremony – and, in the end, it was a super night.
“I spoke to Messi during the evening. It was not the longest conversation because he doesn’t speak a lot of English.
“But it was still enough to make me realise that the respect between us now also runs the other way.”
What does keep him happy is being at Liverpool. It’s obvious from the way the Dutchman talks that there’s a genuine affection among the players for each other. It’s great to see.
“At almost every club, you find that there are lots of different little groups in a squad”, he added.
“But this Liverpool bunch is phenomenally close together. In my opinion, Liverpool are one big family – and that is why this club suits me so much.
“That’s why this club is great for me. The people are all humble. The legends of the great days – such as Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush – travel with us during European weeks.
“Dalglish even sends me texts on my phone and we will have a chat at times.
“When I go to see my family after a match, I go by the boardroom and it is always full of former top players.
“But we can also have a laugh and a joke about each other.
“Do you know who is the funniest in the team? Sadio Mane. He comes out with crazy things and always cracks us up. Sadio is the funny man in the team, but Andy Robertson can’t keep his mouth still and James Milner is a special one in the house as well.”
“When we were about to go on to the pitch for the biggest game of the year in Madrid, suddenly it was Gini who said, ‘Hang on, boys, let’s all get together here’.
“We formed a tight circle right there in the dressing room and Gini started to talk.
“He said all the right things, he really went for it and I could feel I was getting a lump in my throat. It was so special what he said – and it was so perfect. Gini is such a warm person.”