Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has hailed Virgil van Dijk’s comeback from a knee injury suffered away at Everton last season as “absolutely brilliant”.
The Netherlands captain suffered an anterior cruciate ligament issue at Goodison Park last October. There were immediate fears over the length of his absence and those rang true. Indeed, he missed the rest of the season.
Van Dijk was in a race to be fit for Euro 2020. However, he chose to miss out and instead focus on his recovery.
As a result, he enjoyed a full summer of training. Van Dijk has since played every minute of Liverpool’s Premier League campaign so far.
Nevertheless, Liverpool have been keen to manage his minutes where possible. Therefore, the centre-back has remained on the bench for two Champions League matches, including last week’s 2-0 win over Porto.
Klopp said of the psychology of the return trip to Everton for the defender: “We are human beings, so it’s probably difficult to ignore something like that. But the situation was now not that it can always happen in football, it’s that it should not happen in football.
“Virgil is very experienced and he has these kind of situations constantly since he is back. He’s in challenges where he has to be completely free of all these things in his mind because of one issue in the past.”
As for his 16 games back in Liverpool’s defence, Klopp added: “Virgil came back brilliantly. People are really quick [to spot] when something is not like it was before.
“These kinds of judgements are not right, they make absolutely no sense because everybody needs time to get back.
“But he had a full pre-season which is absolutely helpful and since then we had to learn to deal with it.
“The third game in a week, he looked fine, but he needed maybe this little break which we gave him last week. I’m not sure we need to give him that still for the next few games, but at least we have it in our mind.
“His comeback has been absolutely brilliant. Some things are not exactly like they have been, it’s only a matter of time when they will be because of his quality. There’s no doubt about that.”
Klopp talks Salah, Ballon d’Or ranking
One Liverpool player who has been in sensational form throughout 2021 is Mohamed Salah.
The Egyptian continued his fine form last season while there was a drop-off across the board. Indeed, he finished with a record of 31 goals in 51 games.
Salah has followed that up with 17 strikes from 18 games this term. A couple of those, against Manchester City and Watford, are goal of the season contenders.
The forward subsequently finished seventh in the Ballon d’Or rankings, as Lionel Messi scooped the prize on Monday.
Klopp admitted that he felt “surprised” at Salah’s ranking. He added: “I saw the vote somewhere, but don’t ask me, it’s your fault. You are the journalists.
“If you think he should be higher up, then you have to convince your colleagues.
“I’m really not sure what it is about 100 per cent, I think that you can always give it to Lionel Messi for the career he has, for the footballer he is.
“But if you don’t give it to Robert Lewandowski this time then it’s quite tricky to get it at all. Yes, Mo definitely should have been higher up.”
Liverpool drew 2-2 at Goodison Park last season and had a late winner ruled out.