Virgil van Dijk is back to his former club Southampton on Friday with a recognition as one of the most influential players in the Premier League race between Liverpool and Manchester City.
Jurgen Klopp’s men owe a huge debt to their Dutch defender who was signed from Southampton months ago for £75 million ($99 million) a fee that triggered almost everyone’s interest. But the investment is looking like a wise one already with the victory over Tottenham, being held up as an example of his peerless form.
With the game finely poised at 1-1 at Anfield on Sunday, Tottenham had a two-on-one break, featuring Moussa Sissoko and Son Heung-min against the Liverpool centre-half.
Van Dijk decided to leave Sissoko with the ball, forcing him into a shot that the nervous Tottenham man missed hopelessly, which paved the way for Liverpool to snatch the winning whistle.
When Andy Robertson was asked if that one moment showcased Van Dijk’s skills. He said “Of course. He made the right decision there. Look, it’s getting to the point of the season where both teams wanted to win it. If it’s maybe in the first month of the season, it probably sees out as a 1-1 draw. But they’re fighting for Champions League spots and they needed three points and we needed three points. That’s why we brought on extra attackers and we went for it and tried to get the three points and luckily we did. But these situations are going to happen. We’re maybe going to get a wee bit exposed at the back but there’s nobody better to deal with it. Luckily we got away with one there and they’ve not got away with it.”
Andy Robertson wasn’t the only admirer who noticed the Dutchman’s role in that victory and, with every passing week, the case for Van Dijk to be named as the Premier League’s player of the year is gaining momentum.
Liverpool’s delayed bid to sign the defender from Southampton, which had been thwarted the previous summer, has shocked a lot of people as he emerged the most expensive defender in the history of the Premier League.
Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling is another strong candidate for the end-of-season individual awards but Van Dijk has made a strong case and the only slight concern for Klopp after the Tottenham victory was the sight of his key defender using an ice pack on a muscle injury after the game.
The fear that he may not be able to return to his old club has been dumped when Liverpool showed footage of the 27-year-old taking part in a full training session on Wednesday.
Klopp said, “He’s so important to us not only as a player but as a person. I couldn’t say a bad word about him even if I wanted. Yes he has improved us and he has improved since he came here as well. He is a different player to when he was at Southampton. Champions League quarter-finals, semi-finals and final help you as a player.”