Virgil van Dijk: Prioritising club football over rushing back for the Euros
After picking up a season-ending injury in the Merseyside derby on October 17, 2020, Virgil van Dijk faced a fitness race to recover in time for the 2020 European Championships. Unfortunately for the Dutchman and the Netherlands national team, the 29-year-old defender has admitted defeat in representing his country in the summer competition. This news will, however, be music to Liverpool supporters’ ears. So, let’s look at what this means for both Holland and the Reds.
International competition comes too soon
Following a reckless tackle from Jordan Pickford in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park, Van Dijk picked up anterior cruciate ligament damage that would keep him out for the remainder of the 2020-21 season. The Dutchman hasn’t suffered any setbacks during his rehabilitation, leaving Frank de Boer optimistic that the 29-year-old would recover in time for the EUROs. However, the tournament has just come too soon for Van Dijk. As of May 12th, the Netherlands are 12/1 in EURO 2020 odds with Paddy Power to win the competition, although the former Southampton defender’s absence significantly impacts their chances of success.
De Boer is blessed with a vast selection of central defenders, although none are on Van Dijk’s level. As such, it’s time for someone to stand up and fill the captain’s boots. Aside from Nathan Ake, Stefan de Vrij, and Sven Botman, Matthijs de Ligt will need to showcase his leadership skills and play at a consistent level if Organje are to reach the latter stages of EURO 2020. While it would be unwise to rule out the Netherlands, it’s impossible to overlook the impact that Van Dijk’s absence has concerning their chances.
All eyes are on 2021-22
There can be no doubts that Van Dijk wanted to play in the EUROs, but he admitted that staying and completing his rehabilitation is the “right decision”. In a recent interview on the official Liverpool website, the Dutchman states that he’s on course to return to team training ahead of the Reds’ pre-season. The 29-year-old also hinted that he’s hopeful that both Joe Gomez and Joel Matip will also return for the off-season, which will be a real boost to Liverpool’s chances of recapturing the Premier League title in 2021-22.
Although Liverpool have had to deal with numerous injuries throughout the 2020-21 campaign, few can argue that Van Dijk’s absence hasn’t been the primary factor behind the Reds’ struggles. During their rise to Premier League and Champions League glory, Jurgen Klopp famously described his team as ‘mentality monsters’. However, the six-time champions of Europe look fragile without the talismanic Dutchman. Despite that, Van Dijk, and the bulk of the Liverpool fan base, have set their sights on 2021-22, which offers plenty of promise.
Netherlands’ loss is Liverpool’s gain
There was always going to be a losing party from a team standpoint in Van Dijk’s fitness race for the EUROs, and that’s proven to be the Netherlands. De Boer’s team still have the quality to achieve their objectives, but the absence of their captain is tricky to overlook. However, the defender’s long-term career was always the priority, and Van Dijk has wisely opted against rushing himself back.