Liverpool should be ready for Virgil van Dijk to return better than ever. The 29-year-old missed most of last season, of course.
Virgil van Dijk will return to being a Liverpool player next season. We haven’t seen him in action since October 17th after he suffered a terrible knee injury.
The resulting surgery left Van Dijk unable to play for the rest of the campaign. He’s even missing Euro 2020, where he was supposed to captain the Netherlands in his first major tournament.
Liverpool missed him desperately, of course, and we expect the Netherlands to face similar struggles. Van Dijk is, after all, the world’s best defender.
But his absence will bring about further worries at Anfield. Will he return the same player? He turns 30 next month and that’s not a good age to be recovering from a serious injury.
We wonder, though, if Van Dijk may return better than every before.
Virgil van Dijk set to return
Liverpool visibly suffered from exhaustion last season. The compacted schedule appeared to have an effect after two years or largely the same starting XI.
And in that sense, the injuries to certain players might help. Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip all got rest they otherwise wouldn’t have. Jordan Henderson the same, to a certain extent.
While Van Dijk has to battle back to full fitness injury-wise, he won’t have to with his energy levels. That’s usually a big problem as a player moves into his 30s. He’s usually been playing every year for well over a decade with only summers off and fatigue helps to start a decline.
But Van Dijk has had nearly a year’s break. It should mean he’s still got plenty left in the tank – arguably more than he had a year ago.
The Dutchman also has a history of delivering when rested. Van Dijk was stellar in the 19/20 season but his best year was 18/19 when he won the Player of the Year award.
That came as he was one of the few world-class stars who had the summer off. The Netherlands didn’t qualify for the tournament and Van Dijk stayed at home.
We could perhaps see something similar this time around, then. He should return fresher than just about everyone, but also a far more experienced player than he was two or three years ago.
With some luck – i.e. a full recovery from injury – we may just see the best of Van Dijk next season.