It might be hard to remember things from the Before Times, but prior to the world stopping and everyone getting trapped in their homes with only Joe Exotic to keep them company, Virgil van Dijk was fast working his way to all time legendary defender status. He’d come from Southampton and steadied Liverpool’s back line from the moment he stepped onto the pitch.
Now as we edge sort of, maybe, hopefully a little closer to the resumption of the Premier League, van Dijk talked with BT Sport about his meteoric rise into the football world’s collective consciousness.
“To be absolutely honest, in the first six months that I joined we had more training sessions. It was intense, there were a lot of different things that were going to be asked of me. And I enjoyed it, I enjoyed it a lot – the hard work, the discussions that I had with certain players about the way Liverpool, the way we, play,” the Dutchman explained about his arrival in January of 2018.
“The manager demands a lot from me and it all helped me become the player I am today. It’s a lot of tactical work, a lot of thinking. Obviously as a defender we try to keep a high line, try to put the opponent under pressure at all times. You leave a lot of space sometimes behind you so you had to deal with that as well.”
Van Dijk isn’t the first Klopp-era breakout star to credit the manager’s rigorous and tactical training regime for their success, and he likely won’t be the last. Jürgen Klopp’s raison d’etre seems to be to cultivate and hone the talents of football players until they are more successful than they could have ever thought possible.
Van Dijk isn’t one to rest on his laurels, and he vows to continue improving his game.
“There is always room for improvement; I know it and I just try to keep looking for it and keep working on it,” he continued.
“With the help of all my teammates and obviously the manager, and also the manager of the national team – Ronald Koeman – that will definitely help me get better even now. So, I just keep doing that.”
Getting voted runner up for the Ballon d’Or means that there’s at least a little bit higher peaks yet for the 28-year-old to reach in his career. Hopefully we will see him get there with the Reds.