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Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has revealed that he met with Arsene Wenger recently to warn the former Arsenal manager about the risk of having a World Cup every two years. Wenger is pushing for a change to the way international football is scheduled but many people believe the rescheduling could be problematic.
Wenger stepped down as Arsenal manager in 2018 and, as FIFA’s chief of global football development he has been tasked with coming up with ways to revolutionise the game.
The Frenchman has advocated for a restructuring of the calendar which would see FIFA’s showpiece, the World Cup, take place more frequently.
However, the idea has been met with a lukewarm reception, with players worried about the impact more frequent tournaments would have on their bodies.
Van Dijk came back from a cruciate knee injury this season and is therefore a good person to put across the prevailing opinion of Liverpool’s players to Wenger.
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“We should not complain, but the matches are piling up,” he said.
“Playing matches is the greatest thing for any footballer. But the right choices must be made and people should look at the health and safety of the players.
“That is what we speak about.
“In England, we talk about this with the PFA, but a couple of weeks ago I was specifically asked to talk with Mr Wenger and players of our team about this idea of having a World Cup every two years.
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“I appreciate that these discussions take place with us. But if we, as senior players at Liverpool and other big clubs in England, give our opinion, then I think it is time they must start to listen.”
So far Wenger’s plans have made little headway, with players presenting a unified front against the idea.
Van Dijk is a good example of why players are concerned by FIFA’s proposal.
The 30-year-old defender suffered a serious knee injury last December and missed the remainder of the 2020/21 season.
He completed rehabilitation alongside fellow Liverpool defender Joe Gomez in the summer and has made a strong start to the season under Jurgen Klopp.
“I think I can be very satisfied with how I have come back from such a complicated knee injury,” he said.
“But my injury was the result of a kick. It was not one of those moments where nobody was around and your knee goes. When I think about it, that made it easier to go full steam ahead again.
“Of course, there is a niggling thought in the back of my mind now and again, but it is certainly not something that bothers me every day.
“I am never afraid to get right stuck in when it comes to a 50/50 ball.”
The Netherlands are on the brink of qualification for the World Cup following their 2-2 draw against Montenegro on Saturday night.
Van Dijk, who played the full 90 minutes, will be involved in Tuesday’s final Group G game against Norway before returning to Liverpool, who face Arsenal at Anfield in the Premier League on Saturday.
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