Virgil van Dijk was made the world’s most expensive defender by Liverpool and he wants to repay them by becoming a club legend.
The Netherlands international was signed from Southampton for £75million in December 2017 and has started every Premier League match this season, with Jurgen Klopp’s side level on points with Manchester City at the top of the table.
Liverpool’s charge towards a first title of the Premier League era will be tested at Manchester United on Sunday when they go up against a team unbeaten domestically under interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
But centre-back Van Dijk is taking a long-term view as he tries to lead Klopp’s men into a period of success and silverware.
“As a legend of Liverpool,” Van Dijk told BBC Sport when asked how he wants to be remembered. “I want to achieve amazing things here. We have a fantastic squad, we have everything, we have all the tools.
“They went all out to get me and I want to give everything for them. Before I started training, I went to the game against Leicester [City on December 30, 2017]. I was in the boardroom and met so many legends, great players who played for a beautiful club.
“When you play for this club, you’ll always be welcome as you’ve been part of the family. It’s one of the reasons I definitely wanted to play for the club.”
Caption this.. pic.twitter.com/8doa6ZzunP
— Virgil van Dijk (@VirgilvDijk) February 14, 2019
Van Dijk spent time training alone at Southampton after putting in a transfer request in a bid to force the deal through, but he insists his commitment was never in doubt.
“After the end of August I put my head down, played for Southampton and gave everything,” he added. “I was happy to play because I came back from an eight-month injury.
“When everything happened over the summer, people doubt you. For me, I really didn’t care as I gave everything in games and training. When it was December and I got a call to say they got a deal done and I could talk to Liverpool, I was very happy.
“I went to the Juventus v Real Madrid Champions League final in Cardiff in [June] 2017 and a lot of Liverpool fans came to me and said I had to sign for them. It was a great gesture; they were nice and respectful.”
— Virgil van Dijk (@VirgilvDijk) January 11, 2019
Van Dijk’s development into one of the world’s top defenders was not always guaranteed, however.
“I wasn’t tall until I had a growth spurt – at 16 my younger brother was getting taller than me,” he said. “Over the summer I turned 17, I grew 18 centimetres.
“My knee was a bit unstable. I had groin problems. I had so many problems, then I had proper rehab with physios and was out for six weeks. After that, I started playing well.
“At 16, I was a slow right-back and wasn’t good enough to play centre-back. I was never a standout player until I played for the Under-19s and became the captain. Then everything went much better – I played some games for the Under-23s and after that it went pretty quickly.”
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