Klopp opens up on ‘really difficult’ van Dijk conversation over Liverpool role

Date published: Thursday 16th September 2021 9:28 - Samuel Bannister

Jurgen Klopp with Virgil van Dijk in Liverpool training

Jurgen Klopp has reminded Virgil van Dijk that he must be “sensible” with how he manages his comeback after opening up on his decision to leave him out of the Liverpool lineup against AC Milan.

Van Dijk has started all four games of the new Premier League season after making his return from an ACL injury. Liverpool sorely missed him during his 10-month absence and it no doubt had a negative impact on their failed title defence. Thus, Klopp will be glad to have the Dutchman back.

But he left him on the bench for Liverpool’s first Champions League group match against AC Milan on Wednesday. In his place, another absentee for most of last season, Joe Gomez, made his first start of the new campaign alongside Joel Matip, who also missed the end of 2020-21.

Liverpool could have done with van Dijk when they came under pressure towards the end of a first half that they had otherwise dominated. Inexplicably, they found themselves 2-1 down after failing to deal with a couple of Milan attacks in quick succession.

But they steadied the ship and went on to regain their lead in the second half, with a rare Jordan Henderson thunderbolt earning them a 3-2 win.

After the game, Klopp explained his decision to leave van Dijk out and how “difficult” he found it.

“It’s really difficult for players like Virgil van Dijk who you saw warming up tonight to tell them they are not playing,” he said.

“But you need to be sensible in these moments and we have a lot of boys in the last line who are coming back from injury.

“Naby Keita started some games already, (Jordan) Henderson played a super game, both of them and Fabinho did that too, that was very important.

“Divock Origi is an outstanding striker and he did really well tonight. It’s just really difficult to get in this team to be honest. That is what makes life sometimes a bit uncomfortable but Divock is a great guy.”

Liverpool transfer concerns raised

Despite the positive vibes around Anfield, BT Sport pundit Michael Owen insists it’s not all a bed of roses at Anfield.

The likes of van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson, Alisson and Fabinho all agreed extended deals this summer.

However, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino all face a period of uncertainty. With deals that expire in 2023, and at 29-year-old apiece, time does not appear on their side.

And Owen reckons some or even all of the trio may need replacing.

“I think Liverpool are going to address it,” he said on BT Sport.

“What I think the big concern is [that] everyone is going to be old at the same time, in three or four years. Look at the front three: Firmino, Salah and Mane – all late 20s.

“Another three or four years you’re not going to replace one, it all of a sudden goes bump and you’ve got to replace two of them.

“I think that’s the general around the team – the Matips, the Van Dijks – they’re all late 20s now.

“You’ve got your Henderson and Milners, but that’s fine. That’s experience… but when there’s a glut – that will happen – in four, five years that’s something that Jurgen Klopp has to address next year.”

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