It has already been two months since a shocking challenge from Everton‘s Jordan Pickford left Van Dijk requiring surgery to correct damage to multiple ligaments in his knee.
The Dutchman was initially given time off before undergoing surgery at the end of October, and earlier this month he was pictured at the Reds’ new training ground at Kirkby, continuing his rehabilitation.
Van Dijk working alongside his team-mates in the gym and supporting from the stands at Anfield may give the illusion that he is closer to a return than he is, with the 29-year-old certainly assuming a more public profile than fellow absentees Thiago and Joe Gomez.
But while Klopp was quick to hail Van Dijk for his approach to rehabilitation work, the manager has stressed that it will be a long time before he is back on the pitch.
“He’s as good as he can be in the situation,” Klopp told reporters on Tuesday.
“Virg is a very positive person, and since he overcame the shock of the actual injury he’s in a really good mood and working hard to get back.
“But this is a very, very long-term injury. I still have to say it was just a crazy challenge, which I still don’t understand – I don’t think about it, only because you ask me it comes up.
“But it’s a very, very serious injury and it will take time, but he makes the steps he can make in the moment.”
In all likelihood, Van Dijk will not be back until next season, with the current campaign considered a writeoff due to the extent of the damage to his knee.
The club have not set a timescale for his recovery, however, raising hopes of a possible return before the end of 2020/21, with Klopp previously explaining that “everybody copes differently.”
It may be that he is able to take part in training towards May and perhaps feature for the under-23s to rebuild his match sharpness, but it is more feasible that pre-season is the target.
Klopp is right, therefore, to remind those whose hopes were raised by the images of Van Dijk at Kirkby that this is a “very, very long-term injury.”
But, as the manager attests, Liverpool’s No. 4 is clearly in the right frame of mind to make a full recovery, and the hope is that he can be back to his best in 2021.