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Van Dijk savouring being “back out there with the boys” after 302-day absence

It was an occasion 302 days in the making for Virgil van Dijk as he made his competitive return at Norwich and it’s now a season to savour after a tough rehab journey.

The Dutchman was a much-missed figure last season after sustaining a serious knee injury just five games into the campaign, a setback that would send Liverpool’s season on a completely different trajectory.

The comeback has been a long one for Van Dijk but since making momentous strides in pre-season he has not looked back, with the trip to Norwich his first competitive game since October.

A clean sheet, 90 minutes under his belt and a victory to boot, it was a confidence-boosting return and one that was a reward for the hard work during a nine-month rehab stint.

“It’s amazing if I’m honest,” Van Dijk told Sky Sports post-match on his return.

“Obviously, I need games but the manager knows it and I know it. It was a good start today and time to recover and make sure that I’m hopefully ready for next week, and it’s gonna be a tough one again against Burnley.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 14, 2021: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk during the FA Premier League match between Norwich City FC and Liverpool FC at Carrow Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“A 3-0 win tonight sounds comfortable, but I think at times we especially, in the last bit, made it very difficult for ourselves and came a little bit under pressure, maybe that’s fatigue, maybe it’s something where we have to do better but we got to look at it.

“But you can’t be negative about tonight, we won 3-0 and I’m certainly happy I’m back out there again with the boys, helping the team and hopefully, that can continue and we’ll see what that brings.”

The 30-year-old also opened up on the mental toll of his injury and how he is now just simply out to enjoy what the season has to offer after having his previous one taken away in a flash.

“The beginning, mentally it’s tough. You are going from one day of being fully fit to the next day that you can’t walk, you’re full of medication, full of pain you can’t sleep,” Van Dijk added.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 14, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Norwich City FC and Liverpool FC at Carrow Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“Everyone has their opinion. And you, you know, you read those things because you have nothing to do.

“We were struggling last season with more injuries, key positions where we couldn’t play our game. The way you want to play high pressure, full of energy and I think when we had midfielders playing at centre back it is not easy at all.

“I think the quality that the Premier League has at this point with all the players coming in and coming back is exciting. I enjoyed it.

“You know, if I’m thinking about our own team, if we stay fit we have a good chance to be up there.

“You have to enjoy it and I certainly will after being out so long. But to play against strikers again, world-class teams, when you can’t predict who’s going to be the winner of the season, it’s amazing to me.”

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