Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has admitted that he should've taken a break before the 2022 FIFA World Cup as games continue to come thick and fast for club and country.
The Dutch international suffered a knee injury in 2020 against Everton after a horror challenge from Jordan Pickford that saw him miss the lion's share of the 2020-21 season. However, he made a complete recovery and was a rock at the back for Liverpool as they won the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup the following season.
This season, however, Van Dijk hasn't been able to live up to his lofty standards, but in recent weeks, the towering Dutchman has shown signs of returning to his best.
As cited by Independent.ie, Van Dijk admitted that he is still recovering from his 'complex' knee injury and also claimed that he's probably played too many games this season.
Virgil van Dijk on sacrificing time with his family:
“I came back from quite a complex injury. That takes treatment, that takes time, it takes getting used to and adaptation. Coming back from the knee injury, I played all the Premier League games because everybody wants to be out there, and I want to be out there.
“What caught up is that I played too many games at a time. When it’s game day I want to play and I’ll do everything possible to play, but I could have also thought before the World Cup, ‘Let’s rest a little bit in order to be ready.'
“But I didn’t because I want to play, and I want to be influential for this football club because I love this club. But it caught up with me unfortunately, my body. I’m not a robot and I think going into the World Cup, having the World Cup, and then doing nothing for a week and coming back was maybe not the right decision. We can all go back 10 or 15 years ago and it was quite difficult to be playing at the highest level for players who had done this injury."
The Liverpool defender also spoke about the Reds' 2022-23 campaign and admitted that while things haven't gone as planned so far, he would do everything within his powers to spearhead Jurgen Klopp's side to a place in the UEFA Champions League next season.
“Sometimes people around will take it for granted and see it as normal, but it isn’t. That’s what I’m trying to prove, but not to the outside world but to myself more. I want to go out there, I want to improve, and I want to make sure we get in the Champions League. This club belongs in the Champions League.
“These six weeks were a good chance for me to reflect, but also let my knee settle a little bit and get ready for the rest of the season. It was a tough six weeks to watch because you want to help the team – and, especially with a hamstring injury, you have to be very patient. Patience is not in my vocabulary. It’s not in my system, but I had to [be].”
ANFIELD WATCH VERDICT
Van Dijk hasn't been at his best this season, but he is still one of the best defenders in world football and his accomplishments since joining Liverpool can't be taken for granted. He returned seamlessly from a horror injury and was at his imperious best last season, so his powers haven't diminished overnight.
Van Dijk: “I’m not a robot and I think having the World Cup and then doing nothing for a week and coming back it was maybe not the right decision.”
— Anfield Watch (@AnfieldWatch) March 2, 2023
Granted, he hasn't really set the world alight with his performances this season, but he has enough credit left in the bank to turn things around. A goal and a clean sheet against Wolves will give him enough confidence for the business end of the season as Liverpool look to defy the odds to secure a top-four finish in the Premier League.