• Profile

Virgil van Dijk – The man who transformed Liverpool

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Final
Getty Images

Only a few days after guiding Liverpool to Champions League glory, Virgil van Dijk is getting ready to captain the Dutch national team in the UEFA Nations League finals.

Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk guided the Reds to their sixth European crown on Saturday night, putting in a Man of the Match performance in the 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League final.

The Dutchman established himself as the best central defender in the world during the past season and one of the top candidates for the 2019 Ballon d’Or.

Van Dijk began his career in football at Groningen, making his professional debut on 1 May 2011 against ADO Den Haag.

The defender broke into the first team in the 2011-12 campaign, but suffered a kidney poisoning during the season and later revealed that he had been close to dying as a result of the medical emergency. The hospital had even gone so far as to ask him to sign a “sort of will” in the event of his passing.

He moved to Celtic in June 2013 for a fee of around £2.6 million. Van Dijk spent two years at Celtic Park winning the Scottish Premiership twice, as well as the Scottish Cup in his final season.

On 1 September 2015, the Dutchman joined Southampton in a £13 million transfer deal, managed by his compatriot Ronald Koeman. He quickly established himself in the starting eleven and played an amazing debut season in the Premier League, which saw him winning the Southampton Player of the Season award.

In January 2017, Van Dijk was named team captain of Southampton, following Jose Fonte’s departure. He suffered an ankle injury against Leicester City later that month, which ruled him out of the remainder of the 2016-17 campaign, including the EFL Cup final, which the Saints lost to Manchester United.

Liverpool made an illegal approach the Dutch defender during the summer of 2017, but Southampton did not agree to let him go for any price. They gave in in the January transfer market, as Virgil van Dijk became the most expensive defender in the world, moving to Anfield for a transfer fee of £75 million.

His impact on Liverpool’s defense was exceptional, transforming it into the toughest in England. The Reds reached the Champions League final in 2018, but lost 3-1 to Real Madrid at the Olympic Stadium in Kyiv.

Van Dijk was already one of the best defenders in England, but it was during the 2018-19 campaign when he established himself as the very best. He is a physical monster – strong, quick and superior in the air. The Dutchman also possesses leadership skills and a strong character, which has become a real rarity in modern football.

He won the Premier League Player of the Season award this season and played a vital role in Liverpool’s incredible campaign, leading the Reds to European glory against Tottenham Hotspur last Saturday.

The season is not over for Virgil van Dijk yet, as he is going to captain his country in the inaugural UEFA Nations League finals. The Dutch side will face England in the semi-finals at Estadio D. Afonso Henriques on Thursday night.