Virgil van Dijk says he is edging closer to his optimum fitness level, as he continues to go from strength to strength at Liverpool.
Becoming the most expensive defender in the history of the game means there is always going to be extra pressure to perform.
Van Dijk’s £75 million move from Southampton in January raised eyebrows, but it was clear that Jurgen Klopp saw him as integral to his future plans, after a summer move failed to materialise.
The Dutchman didn’t arrive in peak condition after injury problems at St Mary’s, however, and shaky early performances in the losses to Swansea City and West Brom were not ideal.
For the large part, though, the 26-year-old has been colossal at the heart of the Reds’ defence, organising those around him, oozing class on the ball and ensuring Liverpool have conceded just three goals in his last six starts.
Van Dijk admits he is feeling better about his fitness and integration with team-mates all the time, with plenty more to come from him this season.
“Do I feel settled in now? Yeah, definitely. Quicker than I might have thought? I don’t know,” Van Dijk told the Liverpool Echo.
“Obviously you come here with expectations and you want to play as soon as possible and as much as possible this season and be as fit as possible and quick as possible.
“Now, I’m getting better and better and the understanding with all of the players is getting much better. I’m just playing my game and trying to help my team.
“What per cent am I now? That’s difficult. But I’m completely over the ankle problems, definitely. That was already the case when I started playing again at Southampton.
“It’s more than that, it’s also just condition-wise and the way Liverpool play you need to be spot on. That’s pretty clear right now.”
Some big-money signings take time to settle, with many never fully adjusting to life at Anfield, but Van Dijk looks a stunning buy.
It is difficult to find a fault in the centre-back’s game, and in the space of a couple of months, Liverpool already looks far more secure defensively.
The frightening aspect for opponents is that Van Dijk speaks as though there is another gear to find, which can only bode well for the Reds.