After spending most of the 2020-21 season sidelined with an ACL injury, Virgil van Dijk has returned to action this season and alongside Joël Matip the Dutch international has helped to reestablish Liverpool’s defence as one of the best in England and Europe.
The player, though, knows that you don’t simply return from that kind of an injury as if it never happened—though for a player widely regarded as football’s best centre half, being short of his absolute best still means being one of the game’s best.
“I feel like I’m improving,” Van Dijk noted. “Everyone knows how difficult it is to come back from a knee injury, and I don’t think there’s a lot of examples of players who have had an ACL and a complex knee injury that is back to his best after a year.
“I have work to do but the thing is I don’t think about what others really have to say. I want to be as good as I can for the team I play for, for the fans and, in my case, the country I play for. The only thing to get there is to play games, get better, get back to normal.”
Currently, the Reds have the fourth best defensive record in the Premier League by goals against and the third best by expected goals conceded, while in Europe they’ve conceded three times in two games in their difficult Champions League group.
He may not be back to 100% just yet—and in fact it may take much of the 2021-22 season for him to get there—but even short of his imperious, absolute best, the 30-year-old clearly makes Liverpool better, as he would any other side in football.
“The only thing I can do is try my best in each and every game,” Van Dijk added. “So far it’s going the right way and I’m feeling fine, [but] there’s always room for improvement.”