Van Dijk admits he has sprung surprise with key aspect of Liverpool return

Virgil van Dijk signals to team-mate Hertha Berlin v Liverpool July 2021 TEAMtalk

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk says that his so far smooth return from long-term injury has come as a “surprise” to some people.

The Dutchman spent over nine months on the sidelines after encountering an anterior cruciate ligament injury in October. However, he made his long-awaited return last Thursday against Hertha Berlin. He did not have the greatest return after losing a one-on-one battle resulting in a goal, but manager Jurgen Klopp has insisted that he needs more minutes.

Whether Van Dijk remains at the top of his game after what can be a career-changing injury remains unclear.

However, he and Joe Gomez – who also endured a nasty knee injury last term – have had no reaction to training and match minutes so far. Indeed, he said that his solid return has come as a surprise.

“I think from day one of pre-season, day two when we started to have team training, it was always going to be a case of how things would go because no-one really has an idea of how me and Joe was, in that case, [but] also how it reacts because that’s the most important thing,” Van Dijk told Liverpool’s official website.

“You can do team training again, but if your knee reacts to it or your knee can’t handle it then obviously you have to slow down a little bit.

“Surprisingly for some, things have been going very well, no reaction, the feeling is good, the confidence is there and it’s just about getting back to fitness.

“In the beginning, we didn’t have double sessions and as the time went on, we started to do that well, progressed, so I felt like I was ready to get some minutes.

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“That’s what I said to the manager and to Pep (Lijnders), then we had the discussion with [head of recovery and performance] Andreas Schlumberger.

“That’s how the ball started rolling and then we started to build up to the game.”

Before his injury, Van Dijk had cemented his status as one of the world’s best defenders.

He had played every Premier League match for two seasons, helping Liverpool finish with 97 points and a title-winning 99.

However, after so long away, Van Dijk admitted he felt the pressure coming back into the team against Hertha.

Van Dijk felt Liverpool pressure

Virgil van Dijk Hertha Berlin v Liverpool July 2021

“After the game, I was empty, drained. I’d played 20 minutes, but it wasn’t because of the game,” he said. “It was because of everything that had happened the whole week and the whole day.

“That’s something that sums it up because it was not only the game that was so intense, it was everything around it as well. The whole preparation, your whole mind had been going into a mode [in] that you’re overthinking everything.

“You think about what you’re going to do on your first touch, what you’re going to do with this and that.

“So, as I said, I was just happy that this was done, we did it, and now it’s just to crack on again. Thursday is the next one.”

Liverpool play Bologna in two 60-minute matches on Thursday. Van Dijk has revealed he will play at least 30 minutes.

The Reds then return to Anfield for two final pre-season friendlies before their Premier League opener against Norwich on August 14.