Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has rejected the assertion that he makes football look “easy” to his opponents, fans and even colleagues.
The Dutchman emerged as a towering centre-half at Celtic and improved his game at Southampton. However, he has gone to the next level again since his move to Anfield in 2018. He has played a vital role in the club’s Champions League and Premier League success, playing every league game for two seasons.
As well as that, though, Van Dijk has picked up stellar personal accolades, including UEFA’s Player of the Year award for 2019.
He has foiled many an opponent, including Watford captain Troy Deeney, who said in jest (via talkSPORT) that he “hates” the defender because he is “too big, too strong, too quick, too good” and has a “good head of hair”.
Asked in an interview for a new book about his tactics for getting the best of his opponents, though, Van Dijk insisted that the game does not come to him as easy as some people think.
“First of all, we have a hundred cameras on us!” the 29-year-old said. “For me personally, I don’t like to hurt people. I just want to play and win fair.
“That’s who I am. I am not a guy who will try to win with different tactics.
“Some people suggest I make the game look easy, but trust me, every game is very tough. We play against world-class strikers, very physical strikers, and never am I thinking, ‘This is easy.’
“Maybe though, I want my opponent to think I am. Look at Roger Federer. If you see him play tennis, you think he doesn’t sweat.
“Mentally, that must be so tough for his opponent, who will think he’s not trying.”
Liverpool have missed Van Dijk’s abilities, leadership and overall presence greatly this season. He has not played since October, when he suffered a serious knee injury.
However, he is nearing a return and snubbed the chance to take part in Euro 2020 this summer in favour of working to get fit for Jurgen Klopp‘s side.
Van Dijk turns down Euro 2020 chance
Speaking earlier this week, the centre-back said: “With everything that is going on, I feel physically it is the right decision that I’ve decided not to go to the Euros and to go into my last phase of rehab during the off-season.
“So, the full focus will be on pre-season with the club and that’s a realistic goal.
“So I am looking forward to that.”