The Dutch captain says he is “at peace” with his decision as he looks to return from a serious knee injury in time for the start of next season
Virgil van Dijk has ruled himself out of this summer’s European Championship, and is instead targeting a return to club action with Liverpool in time for the 2021-22 campaign.
The Netherlands captain has been sidelined since October after suffering a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in a challenge with Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
The 29-year-old has, however, been progressing well in his rehabilitation, and has been pictured working with a ball at Liverpool’s Kirkby training ground, as well as posting videos of himself running outside.
That had raised hopes he could make an earlier-than-expected return to action for the Reds before the end of the campaign, and there were suggestions he could even be included in Frank de Boer’s Dutch squad for this summer’s tournament.
Van Dijk, though, has moved to clarify his position, insisting his focus is on Liverpool, and getting back to full fitness for next season.
What’s been said?
Speaking to Liverpool’s official website, Van Dijk said: “Things have been going well, I’ve not had a real setback or anything, I’ve just progressed nicely. In this latest stage for myself, I have come to a decision that I had to make: would I be involved in the Euros, yes or no?
“With everything that is going on, I feel physically it is the right decision that I’ve decided not to go to the Euros and to go into my last phase of rehab during the off-season. So, the full focus will be on pre-season with the club and that’s a realistic goal, so I am looking forward to that.
“Obviously I am very gutted to miss the Euros, to miss the European Championship and leading out my own country there, but things have been like they have and I have to accept it – we all have to accept it. I think the decision to not go is the right decision in the grand scheme of things.
“It’s tough, but I’m at peace with it.”
‘A big 18 months’
Van Dijk has certainly been missed, both by club and country.
Liverpool’s decline has been spectacular without their defensive leader. Jurgen Klopp’s side sit sixth in the Premier League table, and will likely need to win all of their remaining four matches if they are to have any chance of squeezing into the final Champions League qualification spot.
Van Dijk, though, says he can’t wait to get back out there for the Reds.
“I am not the youngest anymore; I’m obviously not old, but I am quite mature and I know by now what could be a good decision,” he said.
“And I think this decision has definitely been the right one, in my opinion, to give my body and my knee a little bit more extra time to get ready for hopefully a big, big 18 months at least with the club but also with my country because we’re trying to go to the next tournament after this as well and that starts in September.
“I knew for a fact before all of this – before this decision and in the beginning of my rehab – there would be pressure on myself in this case. Hopefully, everybody wants me to be back as quick as possible, but for me it is to get back as good as possible and the time is not the most important thing.
“Obviously I want to be back out there, I want to be helping my teammates, helping my country in this case and I obviously want to help the club, but I think it’s the right thing to do to stay a little bit more patient and work even harder during the off-season and get ready.”
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