Jurgen Klopp admitted it is “really difficult” to rest Virgil van Dijk, with the Dutchman producing a rare feat with back-to-back seasons as a Premier League ever-present.
Van Dijk became the first Reds outfielder to start every league game in consecutive seasons since Steve Nicol in 1987/88 and 1988/89 when he made the lineup for Sunday’s clash with Newcastle.
He marked it with a goal, cancelling out Dwight Gayle’s early opener, and Divock Origi and Sadio Mane followed that up to end the season on a high for Liverpool.
Asked if there were any superlatives left for the Dutchman in his post-match press conference, Klopp hailed Van Dijk as “low-maintenance,” which only adds to his brilliance.
“I’m not sure if he needs another hour of praise! He’s good, pretty good! He’s a good centre-half,” he underexaggerated.
“He’s special. The combination of skills is absolutely special. His mindset on top of that is really special. So this mix makes him a pretty good centre-half.
“And a good guy as well, which is what I like a lot; I would work together with him if he was a little bit more difficult to deal with, but he’s really low-maintenance in that case.
“He’s just really nice to have. We knew when we signed him that we would get a really good player, but the package is so special.
“We had no idea about that, and that makes it really, really exciting.”
Van Dijk’s endurance is particularly impressive, with the 29-year-old barely missing a game through injury since joining from Southampton at the start of 2018.
The demands on a centre-back are not as intense as, say, Klopp’s full-backs, and either way, the manager explained how Van Dijk has his own approach to managing his fitness.
“He takes his breaks in the games from time to time, which drives me crazy obviously! But I get it, I get it,” he continued.
“It’s pretty special. It was his big target, that he really could [play all 38 games] again.
“And hopefully that will be possible for the rest of his career. That would be absolutely special.
“We try to rest him but it’s difficult, really difficult. So far it went all well, and we hope it stays like this.
“But he has two weeks off now as well; he doesn’t need more, I’m sure.”
Speaking after the game, Van Dijk credited the role of outgoing physio Christopher Rohrbeck in his impeccable fitness, with the German to be replaced by the returning Chris Morgan.
The player himself will know how to maintain his high standards, of course, and as Klopp attests, long may his ever-presence continue.