Liverpool’s talismanic defender Virgil van Dijk recently made his long-awaited return to action.
After 285 days on the sidelines with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the Dutchman played the final 20 minutes of Liverpool’s 4-3 defeat against Hertha Berlin on July 29.
“It’s hard to express how I am feeling, but it’s important to me that I say I feel blessed to have had the support of so many incredible people,” Van Dijk wrote on social media after the match.
"The surgeon, my physios, coaches and staff who have been with me in my corner since day one. My teammates for giving me energy and keeping my head up. The fans for their love, support and encouragement. And most of all, my family because without them, I’d be nothing.”
Van Dijk was widely regarded as the world’s best centre-back prior to his injury and Jurgen Klopp will be hoping that his star defender hits the ground running when the competitive action gets underway on August 14.
Liverpool have two more pre-season friendlies to play (against Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna) before opening their Premier League campaign with a visit to Norwich City.
What has Troy Deeney said about Virgil van Dijk?
One striker Van Dijk will find himself up against once more this season is Watford’s Troy Deeney.
Deeney, who scored seven goals for promoted Watford last term, is a unit himself but even he admits that going head-to-head against Van Dijk is a nightmare.
“I’ve said it many times – I hate him. I hate going up against him,” Deeney said in 2018.
“He’s too big, too strong, too quick, too good on the ball, he loves fighting and he’s got a good head of hair.
“He’s one of those guys who sprays on his top as well so he smells lovely.”
When Van Dijk tried not to laugh at Deeney's joke
Deeney has so much admiration that he even cracked a joke with his mascot in the tunnel before a Premier League clash between Watford and Liverpool in March 2020.
The centre-forward tapped his mascot and said: “If you had paid a bit more money, you could have stood there next to him.”
The comment clearly amused Van Dijk, who had his game face on but found himself trying hard not to laugh at his opponent’s joke.
Watch the funny video here…
Perhaps it was Deeney’s intention to kill Van Dijk with kindness. He went on to score Watford’s third and final goal in a shock 3-0 victory over Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Van Dijk and Deeney have exchanged messages
The two players even exchanged text messages during Van Dijk’s lengthy injury lay-off.
“He’s horrible to play against,” Deeney told talkSPORT. “He’s like two different people, on and off the pitch.
“I’ve had a few messages with him and spoken to him personally. When [Gerard] Deulofeu got injured he was messaging me to message him. That shows what he’s about.
“He probably wouldn’t want that out there. I’ve killed him a bit. He’s that kind of person.
“But when he’s on the pitch he just wants to win. That’s the best type of person really when they are different on and off the pitch.”
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