He’s Liverpool’s player of the season, the PFA player of the season, and if the Reds win on Saturday he might even have an outside chance at winning the Ballon d’Or, but Virgil van Dijk still thinks he can be better.
“I think I have improved on every aspect of my game,” he said, reflecting on his first full season at Anfield ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final against Tottenham. “I’ve had a lot of experience over the last year.
“I think as a central defender you grow as a player [later in your career]. There’s still more to come. There are always things to improve, you can’t be satisfied with what you have. You have to keep working.”
The idea of Van Dijk, at 27, not having yet reached his peak as a footballer is a tantalizing prospect for fans—and daunting for opponents. And while much of his drive is his own, he’s also helped by a manager pushing him to improve.
Not many Liverpool fans would be able to recall a moment where Van Dijk got it wrong this year, but Jürgen Klopp certainly has—and he hasn’t been afraid to let Van Dijk know when he’s made a mistake on the pitch.
“I have a good relationship with him,” Van Dijk noted. “He just tells you the truth and I will tell him the truth. That’s something I really appreciate. Sometimes when there is a mistake I did that no one else sees, he will tell me.
“For example, away at Bayern Munich, they scored the equaliser from a ball behind Andy Robertson. Normally, I’m there to protect him, but I didn’t. It looked like he was in trouble, so they scored and nobody said it was me.
“But at half-time, the manager came in and shouted at me. I think he’s definitely up there with the best coaches I’ve had. I’m very grateful the boss bought me and got me to Liverpool.”