Van Dijk dispels big Liverpool theory amid troublesome start; talks World Cup aims

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk

Virgil van Dijk has hit back at a journalist for suggesting Liverpool have been struggling this season due to him – and other players – not wanting to get injured for the World Cup.

Van Dijk could come up against several Liverpool team-mates while representing the Netherlands at the tournament in Qatar. Alisson, Fabinho, Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota will all likely feature, among others.

Liverpool have had a slow start to the 2022-23 campaign, winning just two of their first six Premier League matches. They currently sit eighth in the standings, nine points behind first-placed Arsenal.

In the Champions League, meanwhile, they have won a game and lost a game in Group A, putting them second. Napoli top the group after emerging victorious in both of their European outings so far.

Liverpool have had to deal with plenty of injuries, most of which have been in midfield. This is one reason why they have fallen behind the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City in the league.

Pundits have also suggested Jurgen Klopp’s players look burnt out following several years of high intensity, and high quality, football.

Another theory as to why Liverpool might have started poorly is that players are protecting themselves so they can feature at the World Cup.

However, Van Dijk has quickly shut down such rumours before they can gain any traction. When asked about the issue, he replied (via Liverpool Echo): “Not at all, not at all.

Virgil van Dijk rejects World Cup theory

“I can assure you that is definitely not the case. We are not in the situation because of that.

“I would understand because of the start we had everyone is looking for ‘Why?’ because the difference is too big (from last season).

“But I can assure you that is definitely not one of the reasons. You focus on the game at the time and that’s definitely what we’re doing.

“I can only speak for myself and I wouldn’t worry about me. If you think about this I think you are going to have issues, in my opinion. It is just game-by-game and that includes international football.”

Van Dijk then spoke about his World Cup aims, adding: “I want to go (to the World Cup) but to be ready, in my opinion, is not to focus on hopefully not getting injured, it is just keep playing, get fit, stay fit and get in a good moment.”

The centre-back will be desperate to play for his country at the World Cup after missing last summer’s European Championship. He was still recovering from an ACL injury at the time.

Van Dijk will probably captain Louis van Gaal’s team in the absence of his former Liverpool team-mate Gini Wijnaldum. The midfielder could miss out on the international tournament after fracturing his tibia back in August.

He is currently undergoing rehabilitation with Roma but is in a race against time to get back to full fitness.

Van Dijk is the only Liverpool representative in the Dutch squad following Wijnaldum’s Anfield exit in July 2021. The defender will play alongside Manchester United’s Tyrell Malacia and Barcelona star Frenkie de Jong for his country.

Meanwhile, Liverpool have joined a lengthy list of clubs pushing to sign Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhaylo Mudryk, though the Ukraine international has already dropped an Arsenal hint.