Over the past few years, Virgil van Dijk emerged not just as the game’s best centre half with Liverpool but also the Netherlands’ captain and leader, and after the Reds spent recent weeks adjusting to his absence, now it’s his national team’s turn.
It’s a significant blow for their Nations League and Euro 2020—currently delayed until 2021—hopes, but manager Frank de Boer says he believes in his players and in the new captain who will lead Netherlands’ national team: Gini Wijnaldum.
“It is of course sad that Virgil is not there,” De Boer said. “That is a great loss. You only need to look at his achievements in recent years and what personality he is within the group. But as always, as the one king falls away, the next king must rise.”
Wijnaldum will lead his national team out against Spain before they face Bosnia and Poland in a pair of Nations League matches over the next week—though De Boer has promised to rotate with the goal of no player starting all three games.
Looking further ahead, depending on Van Dijk’s recovery it could well be Wijnaldum who still has the armband when the Netherlands host the Euro’s Group C in Amsterdam with Ukraine, Austria, and an as yet to be determined fourth country.
“Gini is a real connector,” the Dutch manager added. “You saw that when the racism issue was topical. He took the pioneering role then. He may be a different type of captain, but everyone is different.”