When Liverpool travel to Glasgow on Wednesday for their Champions League match against Rangers, it will mark the first time Virgil van Dijk has been back to the city since he left Celtic to join Southampton in 2015. Glasgow was the first place van Dijk played outside of his native Netherlands, and he is excited to make a return to the city where he started his journey to becoming one of the best defenders in the Premier League.
“I played for FC Groningen for a long time, they are a mid-table club and sometimes you defend a lot, sometimes you can attack, but not like what I was used to at Celtic,” admitted van Dijk.
“At Celtic, the pressure was immense. If you don’t win you lose, of course, but if you draw you lost. You had to win and that was something, that mentality, that I definitely learned. But it was also learning how to play the British style with more direct, channel balls, a lot of fighting, headers. It was something I wasn’t really used to in Holland so it definitely helped me in order to be ready for my next step in the Premier League.”
The Dutchman also reflected on the similarities between Glasgow and his current home, especially the fan culture, and admitted those similarities were a factor in why he wanted to play for the Reds.
“100 percent [there are similarities between Liverpool and Glasgow] and that is maybe one of the reasons that I picked Liverpool as well,” said van Djik. “I really feel that my step to Celtic was something based on a feeling with the fans, the club, the community and that it really feels like it is a way of living at Celtic.
“With Liverpool, it is exactly the same. When I had the choice to come here or pick between Liverpool and other clubs, for me it was quite clear that I wanted to come here. I play here and I feel like I play for a lot of people and their lives. I am really proud of being a part of Celtic and Liverpool.”
As for the match itself, though Liverpool were able to take care of business in their meeting with Rangers at Anfield, van Dijk isn’t expecting 90 minutes at Ibrox Stadium to be a cakewalk.
“Personally, for me, it is going to be my first time going back to Glasgow so I am really looking forward to that and seeing a lot of friends as well,” Van Dijk said. “We know it is going to be a tough game and the fans over there, especially the first 10, 15, 20 minutes, will be hard so we have to be ready for that storm.
“We know what to expect. It is going to be hard and we have to be ready for that.”
While a match against Rangers, his former club’s bitter rivals, may not be the homecoming he would have preferred, the defender is still relishing the opportunity to return to the city that marked a huge step in his young career and helped him become the footballer and person he is today.
“Glasgow means a lot. It was my first time going abroad, my first time winning trophies, and all of those things were massive to me. They shaped me, how I am as a person. I have got my daughter who was born there. So many good memories of there that I will cherish forever so it will be great to go back and hopefully we will get the win as well.”