Virgil van Dijk, a Liverpool Talisman, Discusses his Recovery From Injuries.
Virgil van Dijk, a Liverpool Talisman, Discusses his Recovery From Injuries.
Virgil van Dijk sits in a room at the sleek new Liverpool training base in Kirkby, listening to the question after dominating performances against Inter Milan and Norwich City.
After a challenge by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, Virgil van Dijk injured his right anterior cruciate ligament 17 months ago. On his return to the pitch Van Dijk led Liverpool to a 6-0 win over Leeds United at Anfield, bringing them within three points of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table. Van Dijk capped off another commanding performance with a stoppage-time headed goal.
However, what irritates the talisman is that he has received little credit for his recovery from a career-threatening injury that required him to relearn how to walk, let alone play, and forced him to confront the doubts that plague every player who suffers an injury. that causes them to wonder if they will ever be the same player again.
Van Dijk, 30, whose Liverpool team faces Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday, is a man who exudes quiet confidence and self-assurance. But he’s noticed that any mistake he’s made since returning at the start of this season has been seized upon by some television analysts and other observers as proof, he’ll never be the defender he was before his injury.
It was the same when Antoine Griezmann beat him to score for Atletico Madrid in a Champions League match last October.
Some fans thought Van Dijk was too laid-back. For his performance, he received a zero rating from a Spanish newspaper. Some shook their heads and declared he’d never be the same again. A few days later, he was chastised again for a performance against Brighton.
It appeared as if the audience wanted to forget about Van Dijk’s knee injury. It was as though they expected him to be back to his best right away, despite the fact that he had been in rehabilitation for more than 300 days.
It was as though no one cared about a player’s suffering and doubts. It seemed as if there was no room for incremental progress toward a goal. It seemed as if the goal had to be accomplished without any setbacks. When Liverpool’s assistant manager, Pep Lijnders, contributed to an in-house report on Van Dijk’s recuperation, which aired near the start of the season, he talked about such doubts.
‘The voice in your head that says it’s all gone, the voice that says you won’t make it, that other players will catch you,’ Lijnders said. Van Dijk had also heard the voice. He is forthright about it. He claims that it is normal. He claims that the voice has vanished.
‘From pre-season to now, it was always going to take time,’ Van Dijk admits. ‘I’m in great shape.’ I think the winter break was beneficial to me since it allowed me to spend time with my family and switch off from football and the pressure we are all under.’ At times, I felt as if I was being taken for granted, as if nothing had happened and everything was normal.
‘I had to completely disconnect and cleanse my mind, telling myself that everything that is occurring right now is quite nice and that I should be glad of it.’
‘It isn’t really normal, in my opinion, after the injury I had to be able to play so many games and at the level I had already attained.’
‘Before the break, a lot of things were running through my thoughts.’ To be ready to go, I needed to spend time with my family, turn off, clear my thoughts, and recharge. I took my family and kids on a beautiful beach vacation far away, which was much needed.’ I felt like I had strong games before the break, but maintaining that constant level, as well as the level that everyone expected of me, was always a pressure. It was something that had a minor role in my mind, but it was there nonetheless…
‘Even if I played well, I felt as if no one appreciated it as much as they should.’
‘It’s not that I’m insecure and need constant reassurance; far from it, but I feel like coming back from an ACL/MCL [anterior or medial cruciate ligament] injury and playing the amount of games I’ve played so far, three games a week, is fairly impressive and should not be disregarded. ‘ And, in my perspective, it was overlooked.’
Statistics back up Van Dijk’s intuition. After suffering an injury, he has made a miraculous comeback for Liverpool this season. He has started more games for the team and played more minutes than any other outfielder. He has also guided the team in other ways, such as guiding them back into a title competition with City.
At Liverpool, he leads the team in passes made this season. He ranks first in aerial combat won this season. He is No. 1 in terms of clearances obtained. Could we have hoped for anything more from a player who had just returned from what he had just experienced?
‘I saw some of the remarks about Griezmann’s goal, and I know I should have done better,’ Van Dijk admits. There are times in any game when you could have done better.’ The problem was not the injury. I am my worst critic, and I will always be aware of when I do and do not do well.
‘It was always the case that people said, “He’s not coming back as good as he wanted,” but when you play well, it’s more like, “He’s back to his best.”
‘There was never a middle ground — “He’s on his way to where he wants to be.” Those thoughts were clearly present in my mind at times.
‘You’re having doubts about whether you’ll be the same when you return.’ That’s quite typical. You have a tendency to overthink things. You’re in a lot of discomfort. You won’t be able to accomplish anything.
‘My family, especially my wife, was essential in bringing me through it, but Andy Williams, the surgeon, was also instrumental. He assured me — without making any promises — that everything would be alright, and I kept in touch with him throughout the process.
‘I’m the type of guy that is always asking questions.’ I’d rather ask a lot of questions. Always ask questions if I feel something isn’t quite right, like the flexion or extension isn’t quite right.’ I knew I needed to climb the ladder physically and mentally to achieve where I wanted to be from the minute I started pre-season with the boys in Austria.
‘Regardless, the goal was to play the opening game of the season.’ That was my goal when I decided to cancel the Euros. That was a difficult decision to make as well, but I thought it was necessary in order to be ready for the next season.
‘I felt compelled to climb this ladder toward the season’s first game and do what I needed to do.’ Dr. Andreas Schlumberger, the club’s head of recovery, was also heavily involved.
‘I had some reservations before I started pre-season.’ If you’re running alone and experience some stiffness, you may begin to question if things will return to normal.
‘Last month, I reached a point where I needed a break.’ That was clear to me, and it helped me, and now I’m motivated to finish the season strong, enjoy the remainder of the season regardless of the outcome, go to the World Cup, and be the player I’ve always wanted to. be.’ Last season, Van Dijk’s injury was the most important aspect in Liverpool’s title defense crumbling.
Liverpool’s ambitions to compete with Manchester City were shattered by his absence, which was compounded by a bizarre succession of injuries to other center defenders.
With the return of Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip, as well as the addition of Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig, they are competing on four fronts this season.
City’s loss to Spurs last Saturday, followed by Liverpool’s thrashing of Leeds, has pushed them within striking distance of City.
Van Dijk, who will captain the Netherlands at the World Cup later this year after missing so much time due to injury, is embracing the onslaught of tests coming his way.
He says, ‘I have nothing to prove.’ ‘It’s not because I believe I’m the most perfect version of myself. It’s more that I’m confident in my ability to improve.
‘All I want to do is go out there and play the best football I can for this wonderful club that I am representing at the top level, and I want to give it my all in order to win trophies, compete, and achieve success.’
‘I’m not practicing to go out and lose games every day.’ With Liverpool and the national team, I’m attempting to win games, trophies, and achieve success.
‘Those are things I want to give my all for, and if it succeeds, I will be pleased, delighted, and in tears, just like I was at the Champions League, because those are things you should never take for granted.’ When we won the Premier League, I cried as well.’ These are the things you dream about as a young boy watching these competitions.
‘You wish to be able to play in those leagues, but it never occurred to me back then that I would be able to lift these two trophies or captain the national team, but here I am, enjoying it, and giving it my all, and if that results in trophies at the end of the season, that makes me happy, my family happy, the fans happy, the club and team happy.’
‘Even if it doesn’t, I’m still content with my life.’ I am descended from a small boy who aspired to be a professional football player; I have achieved my goal, and I am content with that. I’m content with my life in general. I appreciate it. ‘I am fortunate.’