From every team’s perspective, there are two sides on a football field.
The attacker’s side towards the opposition goal, which is more thrilling and exciting as all goalscoring action takes place there.
The other side is the defensive side, where the defenders need to play out of their skins to neutralize the attacking threat of the opposition team.
Well, for me, the defenders are an equally important cog in the wheel much like the forwards. In the words of the famous Sir Alex Ferguson, “attack wins you games, defence wins you titles.”
One such title-winning defender, who counters all attacking threats with much dedication and heart is Virgil van Dijk, the centre-back for the Netherlands and Liverpool.
What’s more, he also presses forward to feed the ball to the more attack-minded players, thereby putting the opposition under more pressure.
The 29-year-old is equally dangerous in set-piece situations, with Virgil van Dijk scoring several priceless goals through his majestic headers.
So, let’s dive into the playing career of the Dutchman, who recently helped Liverpool to win their maiden Premier League title.
Early days and start of Virgil van Dijk’s professional career
Since childhood, Virgil van Dijk had a liking for the beautiful game and such was his passion that he would play football wherever he could, be it on streets, in small playgrounds and eventually at Willem II, a Dutch football club where he started his youth career.
His first professional break came at FC Groningen, another club team in the Netherlands, in 2011. He made 66 appearances for the Eredivisie team before moving to Scottish giants Celtic in 2013.
He played for Celtic for another two years, post which he set his sights on arguably the best league in world football – the Premier League.
Van Dijk joined Southampton, who were then under his compatriot Ronald Koeman, in September 2015.
Koeman would eventually also become Van Dijk’s national team coach when he took charge of the Netherlands in 2018.
Virgil van Dijk’s strong physical style, matched with pace and flexibility to play as a left centre-back and also move to the right when the situation demanded, earned him much applause.
After making a mark for Southampton, the Dutchman’s career soared to new heights in the January 2018 transfer window, when he was bought by Liverpool for a reported fee of £75 million, making him the world’s costliest defender at that time.
Liverpool at best, had a modest defence before Virgil van Dijk joined, and were on a desperate hunt for a strong defender who could control the back line.
Well, in came the Dutchman and such has been his command on the defensive play at the Merseyside club that it is almost impossible for teams to break their defence.
Together with the likes of Joe Gomez, Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold now, Van Dijk transformed Liverpool’s defence into one of the best in the world.
He has won many plaudits for his defensive masterclass and was adjudged the Man of the Match in the 2-0 victory over Tottenham in the 2019 Champions League final.
What’s more, he was the first defender to receive the prestigious UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award in 2018-19.
Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp showered praise on the centre-back after he received the coveted prize.
“It’s really rare for a defender. It’s such important information for football, such an important sign for football. Yes, we all love goals—we want to score them and see them—but more and more and more people get excited about defending. Virg is an exceptional defender, in the moment 100 per cent the best defender in the world, so he deserves that prize absolutely.”
Besides being dependable in defence, Virgil van Dijk also commands immense respect from his teammates and is given the captain’s armband when regular skipper, Jordan Henderson is not on the field.
Moreover, since the last two seasons, Van Dijk has played every Premier League game for the Reds – a testament to his fitness and dedication towards the game.
With such masterclass, he surely is a complete player for Liverpool.
A team with fluctuating fortunes, the Dutch unfortunately couldn’t qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and were in a complete abyss, until manager Ronald Koeman gave the captaincy mantle to Vigil van Dijk, who had made his international debut in 2015.
Well, as was the case with Liverpool, Virgil van Dijk created a massive impact for the Oranje, taking them to the UEFA Nations League final, beating the likes of Germany and England en route.
And if his breathtaking performances in the Nations League wasn’t enough, under his astute leadership, the Dutch have also marched to Euro 2021, winning 6 out of their 8 Qualifiers, conquering Germany 4-2 away.
Truth be told, his 33 caps for the Netherlands have made him their mainstay in defence, and his captaincy inspires confidence among his teammates.
A superstar on the field for the Netherlands and Liverpool alike, one could surely hope there is a lot more still to come from Virgil van Dijk.
So, a big salute from us to the Reds rockstar and the Dutch delight, who always plays with a smile on his face.
Also Read: Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp’s first XI vs XI that won Premier League