Jamie Redknapp is backing Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk to return to his pre-ACL injury levels – and reckons the rise of another Premier League star will act as a solid inspiration.
The talismanic Holland defender missed the majority of last season and Euro 2020. That’s after he sustained a serious ACL injury during the clash with Everton at Goodison Park back in October. That contributed towards a difficult campaign for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
However, they did finish strongly to secure Champions League football. And the Reds seemingly picked up where they left off on the opening weekend. That’s after goals from Diogo Jota, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah earned a comfortable away victory at Carrow Road.
They were also well marshalled at the back by the return of Van Dijk. And Redknapp reckons he’ll soon return to his very best – and claims the rise of Ruben Dias at Manchester City will spur him on.
Dias joined Pep Guardiola’s side in a big-money move from Benfica last summer. And he crowned an imperious season by winning the Player of the Year award – and snatching Van Dijk’s crown as the Premier League’s best defender.
Redknapp though reckons competition between the pair can be a good thing.
“The fact that he had to watch from the sidelines last year as Ruben Dias stole the show as the best defender in the league. He’ll be motivated to show he is the best this season,” Redknapp said on Sky Sports.
“He’s a majestic footballer and you don’t see that very often. He was probably watching everyone waxing lyrical about Ruben Dias and he wants that mantle as the best defender in the Premier League.”
Liverpool suffered heavily during Van Dijk’s injury absence. Redknapp though thinks his rehabilitation has been handled extremely well by the Merseysiders.
“I think it’s been timed perfectly, and he’s not been rushed in too much. For me, he’s one of the best I’ve ever seen,” said Redknapp.
“The assurance he gives everyone around him. It’s hard when you’ve been out for such a long time. I think it’s been timed perfectly, and he’s not been rushed in too much.”
Van Dijk on title challenge
Van Dijk will likely keep his place in the side for the visit of Burnley to Anfield on Saturday.
And a second win of the season will help the feel-good factor grow at Anfield.
Van Dijk commented: “This year is going to be exciting for many reasons, personally but as a team as well. If you look at the teams around us improving, who want to compete for the Premier League title; obviously we want to be up there as well.
“It’s going to be a Premier League full of high quality which we all should enjoy. We have a fantastic squad – just go for it and take each game as it comes.
“Seeing the fans back is a big boost, but also just playing the games, the Premier League, the best league in the world. You want to be out there, you want to perform, you want to compete, you want to win.
“To be able to do that with fans again as a team, hopefully we stay fit all of us, that’s something to be excited about. We’ll give it a proper go and take it game by game.”