It can be easy to forget, such is his world-class quality, that 2021/22 was Van Dijk’s comeback season from his ACL injury as he went on to play 51 times for Liverpool.
The Reds managed the Dutchman’s minutes at the start of the campaign as he eased into his return, going on to be a pillar at the back during another remarkable season.
And after playing 5,340 minutes for club and country, summer internationals were only going to add further strain on his body and mind, but Van Gaal has a plan.
The Netherlands are to play four Nations League games this summer in the space of just 11 days, but their captain is set to feature just once, against Belgium, before going on a well-deserved vacation.
Van Gaal confirmed the news with Dutch outlet Gelderlander on Monday, saying: “I would also like to give Van Dijk time off.
“He had to report today because otherwise, he would miss the evaluation of Germany [their previous game] and then we put the wrong pressure.
“He is the general of that, so he has to. He only plays the first game and then goes on vacation.”
“Van Dijk has had a very serious injury,” Van Gaal further explained. “I believe he has played the most games of any player in the Premier League.
“Then it is logical that he is at the end of his rope? If you know Virgil, he wants to play everything.
“But we also have to listen to the doctors. And sometimes it is not wise to play.”
With 59 appearances in total this season, it’s not the most of any player like Van Gaal says, but it’s a figure that could certainly do without any extra load.
And it’s a huge boost for Liverpool that the Netherlands are putting Van Dijk’s needs first by ensuring he has time to rest and recover after an exhausting campaign.