Significant step forward for Van Dijk as hopes burn bright over early return

Virgil van Dijk

Liverpool are growing hopeful that Virgil van Dijk can make a sooner-than-expected return from an ACL injury after the Dutchman took a huge step on the road to recovery.

Van Dijk tore his anterior cruciate ligament in October’s 2-2 draw with Everton. As such, Liverpool did not place a timescale on his recovery and return to the pitch.

However, Van Dijk has been working hard behind the scenes on his recovery. He recently spent the last two months in Dubai at the Nad al Sheba complex on a specialist rehabilitation programme.

Since returning to English soil last week, Van Dijk has been working on his strength and conditioning with Liverpool’s medics.

However, the player was deemed strong enough to step out onto the grass at their new AXA Training Centre on Wednesday. In what the Liverpool Echo terms ‘a huge step forwards’, Van Dijk was spotted with the ball at his feet.

The Dutchman was in good spirits during his session and smiling away. He also took on some ladder work and trained on his own as his journey back to full fitness continued.

Liverpool, however, will no doubt be keen to stress that no date will be put on Van Dijk’s first-team return.

However, his return to the training pitch, where strength and conditioning will make way to twisting, turning and sharpness, will raise hopes the Dutchman will be back before the season is out.

Jurgen Klopp will likely provide an update when he holds a press conference on Friday to preview Sunday’s trip to face Sheffield United.

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Liverpool ‘almost signed’ De Vrij instead

Everton’s former head of European recruitment, meanwhile, has revealed just how close Liverpool came to signing of his close friends in Stefan De Vrij.

Prior to the Reds signing of Van Dijk in January 2018, Jurgen Klopp and Co were scouring Europe to land another defender.

A number of big-name defenders were mentioned as possible targets, with one of them being De Vrij.

Liverpool will no doubt be happy with their choice of Van Dijk, giving the leadership he has brought to their side.

However, Ian Atkins claims they came close to signing De Vrij instead back in 2017.

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Atkins told the Liverpool Echo: “I know at one point Liverpool were very interested.

“Stefan’s contract was up with Lazio and Inter were very strong on him. They offered him a strong contract, but then Barcelona came in.

“Barcelona had spoken to him and he rang me and asked me what would I do. I told him that you don’t get the chance to go to Barcelona every day of the week. But they had the Pique’s and they wanted four centre halves. Stefan would have been one of them who would have been in and out.

“They also had something to do with the President at the club. If he would have stayed then the coach would have gone. I just said make sure you don’t lose Inter because of it.”

Atkins went on to explain how and why Liverpool opted to sign Van Dijk instead.

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