Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes that Virgil van Dijk is now “back to his best” following his return to action in the summer.
The centre-back has proved an inspired signing as he helped lead the Reds to Champions League and Premier League glory. As such, he was a big miss when he suffered a serious knee injury last season.
Van Dijk suffered the anterior cruciate ligament problem at Goodison Park in October and only returned in pre-season earlier this year.
While he had to make a decision over his Euro 2020 participation, he chose not to take part and instead focused on his recovery. At club level, that has proved to be the right call.
Van Dijk has looked back to full fitness – a recent coronavirus-enforced absence aside – playing a crucial role in the Premier League. However, Klopp has been able to rest him in the Champions League and Carabao Cup because of the depth at centre-back.
Liverpool did not get afforded such a luxury last term with all three senior centre-halves in fact out. As such, Klopp rated this season’s situation “very good”.
“Virg has been really good, really good… long may it continue!” the manager told a press conference.
“It’s like it is. The rehab worked really well, so he came back in really good shape. He needed some rhythm and it was important he got that rhythm.
‘”He’s now back to his best, for sure. What helps us a lot – and what helps him a lot – is that we have options around so we don’t have to push him through in the moments when his body is giving a sign that he needs to step aside for a moment.
“That’s very helpful. That’s why the situation is very good.”
Jarrod Bowen has been linked with Liverpool
West Ham's Jarrod Bowen has been linked with Liverpool.
Klopp has been able to rotate Van Dijk and usual centre-back partner Joel Matip with Ibrahima Konate and Joe Gomez. Nat Phillips has also been an option.
Van Dijk recently celebrated four years as a Liverpool player and Klopp recalled the reasons why his club went after the ex-Southampton man for £75million.
Klopp talks Van Dijk, Liverpool transfer
“Virgil’s arrival was obviously a big day in our common history,” Klopp said.
“It is a good example for a winter transfer and how it works. A winter transfer works when you either wanted to sign a player the summer before or the summer after. That’s the situation.
“We wanted Virgil in the summer [of 2017]. For some reasons we couldn’t do the transfer at that moment but then in the winter we tried again and could get it through. It was a very important day, it changed a lot for us.
“In combination with Joel, with Dejan [Lovren], with Joey, we all of a sudden could defend in a different way. We could make the pitch smaller for the opponent so that was pretty helpful. That is why we are really happy.”
Klopp confirmed on Monday that Van Dijk could return to the starting line-up for Tuesday’s Premier League clash with Leicester. He has in fact missed the Reds’ last three games due to his spell of self-isolation.