Premier League • England

Van Dijk warns of ‘different feeling’ at Liverpool this summer, labelling Klopp star ‘one of the best’

Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool pre-season July 2022

Virgil van Dijk says he has a “different feeling” at Liverpool this summer compared to last year, when he was still in recovery from a serious knee injury.

The Dutchman has a strong case for ranking as the best signing Jurgen Klopp has made as Reds manager. Not only has he individually bettered the team, but his influence has also improved those around him.

As a result, his absence from the team is clear to see – and Van Dijk and Liverpool know all about him being unable to feature.

Van Dijk suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in October 2020 that played a big part in Liverpool‘s drop-off from winning the Premier League three months before.

However, the Netherlands captain came back into the team last term with 51 appearances and a leading role in FA Cup and Carabao Cup triumphs.

Speaking to his club’s official website, Van Dijk admitted that he feels eager to prove himself once again this season.

“I will still be under the microscope and that’s fine,” the 31-year-old said. “That’s something I’ve created myself.

“But it’s definitely a different feeling in this pre-season. Last year, coming back from the injury, so you’re trying to ease your way back in. This year, you try to get as fit as possible as quickly as possible.

“The pre-season is quite short; we have a big game obviously next week coming up.

“But I know myself, I know my body and I know what I have to do in order to be ready for the season – that’s what I’m trying to do each and every day.”

Van Dijk is the leading centre-back at Liverpool, but he added that he feels “blessed” to have Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Ibrahima Konate for company and competition.

Van Dijk lauds Gomez, Liverpool improvement

And Gomez has been in the spotlight this summer after signing a new contract, despite struggling for game time.

Van Dijk said of the England international: “We spoke about it before he signed the deal and I’m just very happy that he’s staying at the club, staying with me.

“Also I’m happy for the club that he’s signed.

“He is, in my opinion, [one of] if not the best English centre-back around. Obviously we’ve both been very unlucky with the injuries we had. Obviously his time will come again and hopefully this season he can show that.”

Liverpool defence vital for success

As with any team, Liverpool’s senior defenders have proved the bedrock of the success Klopp has orchestrated.

Without Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip in the 2020/21 season, they struggled – but Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams stepped up admirably to ensure a top-four Premier League finish.

Amid the calls from some for another midfield signing this summer, Liverpool are at peace with their defence.

Gomez has just signed a new deal and Van Dijk extended his terms last summer. Konate, meanwhile, is heading into only his second season at Anfield.

Liverpool cannot get much better than winning two trophies and finishing runners-up in the other two competitions. But they have been there and done it, with their defence a key component in trying to match those levels and progress next season.