Virgil van Dijk dropping Barcelona hints may leave Klopp on alert
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Virgil van Dijk’s public outpour of admiration for Barcelona will have been the opposite of music to Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s ears. The Dutch centre-back has been at the foundation of Liverpool’s success under Klopp but may have alerted supporters with recent comments.
Van Dijk is primed to go down in history as one of Liverpool’s greatest-ever defenders, making 197 appearances since joining in a £75million deal in January 2018. The 31-year-old has lifted every trophy possible at Anfield – the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup, FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup and FA Community Shield.
Once a player reaches such heights at the same club, questions begin to linger about whether he’d be ready for a new challenge. And with Xavi Hernandez leading an ambitious rebuild at Barcelona, Van Dijk hailing the Nou Camp as the best away stadium he’s played in will likely raise eyebrows.
Speaking to Gary Neville on The Overlap, he said: “I would say Camp Nou, Barcelona [is my favourite away stadium]. Obviously, for myself, watching a lot of Barcelona games when I was younger and then being able to play in it [was amazing]. With Celtic the first time, we got beat 6-1, which was tough, but to be able to play there was a big one. I really enjoyed playing there. [The pitch is] massive. It’s incredible. It’s absolutely insane.”
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The Barcelona love-in continued later in the interview when Van Dijk named Ronaldinho his football role model – somewhat surprisingly, given the difference in positions. He eluded to the iconic Brazilian’s time at Barca in his praise, when Ronaldinho was the ‘best player in the world’.
“It’s just the way that he was, especially after the second season that he joined Barcelona,” Van Dijk explained. “He was the difference-maker, you know? He was the one that everybody was looking to see, and his goals, his tricks and his flair. Obviously, you played against him a couple of times, and at that point, he was the best player in the world. He definitely inspired me in different ways because I’m not a striker, but he influenced who I am today.”
Van Dijk didn’t stop there, also citing Barcelona’s strong Dutch connection as a reason why the club hugely influenced his career. He added: “Yeah, definitely [Barcelona were an inspiration growing up]. Most of it was because of Barcelona, but also the Dutch connection at the time.
“There were so many Dutch players there. Frank Rijkaard was the coach there, you had obviously [Frank] de Boer, [Patrick] Kluivert was the striker. There were all these players at the time, so there was always something going on and something involved with Holland.”
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