Jurgen Klopp has reflected on the four-year anniversary of Liverpool’s £75 million deal to sign Virgil van Dijk, and claimed he is “back to his best” after a long injury.
It is now four years since the Reds announced the signing of Van Dijk from Southampton, in what was a world-record transfer for a defender and a club-record deal.
While the all-time record has now been broken, the Dutchman remains Liverpool’s most-expensive signing in history, and he has more than repaid that outlay with his performances.
The world’s best centre-back, Van Dijk has helped push Klopp’s side to Premier League, Champions League, Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup success; a transformative signing alongside the likes of Mo Salah, Alisson and Fabinho.
Looking back to that day in 2017, Klopp has discussed the contribution his No. 4 has made to Liverpool’s success.
“Virgil’s arrival obviously was a big day in our common history, and it’s a good example of a winter transfer, how it works,” he told reporters.
“I think a winter transfer works when you either wanted to sign the player the summer before or the summer after anyway.
“That was the situation. We wanted Virgil in the summer already, for some reasons we couldn’t do the transfer, but then in the winter we tried again and could get it through.
“It was a very important day, it changed a lot for us, because in combination with Joel, with Dejan, with Joey, we all of a sudden could defend in a different way.
“We could make the pitch small for the opponent, which was pretty helpful. That’s why we are really happy.”
Such is Van Dijk’s importance, then, that the manner in which he was struck down in the Merseyside derby 14 months ago came as a massive blow to Liverpool.
But after a lengthy layoff, Klopp believes his centre-back is “back to his best.”
“Really good, really good. Long may it continue,” the manager said, when asked about Van Dijk’s recovery and return to form.
“It’s like it is, obviously the rehab worked really well, so he came back in really good shape.
“He needed some rhythm, but very importantly got that rhythm. He’s now back to his best for sure.
“What helps us a lot and what helps him a lot is we have options around, so we don’t have to push him through in moments when his body gives a sign that he needs to step aside for a moment.
“That’s very helpful and that’s why the situation is very good.”