Since the start of last season, no outfield players in world football has clocked more minutes on the pitch for club and country than Van Dijk.
That is according to statistician Andrew Beasley, who notes that only two goalkeepers – Red Star Belgrade’s Milan Borjan and Dinamo Zagreb’s Dominik Livakovic – have played more than the Dutchman, too.
It was perhaps no surprise, then, that Van Dijk pulled up during the first half of Monday’s 3-1 loss at Brentford before being withdrawn at the break.
He is now set to miss “more than a month” of action due to a hamstring issue, Klopp has confirmed, but the manager insists it was unavoidable.
“There are a few ‘all time’ players. So players who play for their club all the time and for their national team pretty much all the time in Europe,” he told reporters.
“[Virgil has played] maybe the exact same amount of games in the Premier League as Harry Kane has.
“I don’t know exactly, but he plays all the games and others don’t always play 90 minutes for the national team or don’t always play 90 minutes for their club.
“That’s really the highest level of intensity, if you want.
“And yes, of course, if you ask me now ‘would it have been a good idea to leave Virgil van Dijk out?’, [I would say] yes.
“Did anybody think about leaving him out? No – him included. There was no reason for it.
“It was not that we thought ‘that’s a bit too much’. Just you only deal with the things you know about the player.
“The player knows how he feels, he gets the treatment he gets and after that, my relationship with Virg is very close, if he would have felt a little bit he would have said ‘boss, not for me this weekend’.”
Hindsight is, of course, a wonderful thing, but Klopp used the setback for his No. 4 to highlight the impact an ever-increasing schedule is having on players.
That, he feels, is evidence that Liverpool and their rivals will need “bigger squads” in the future, particularly with the expansion of the Champions League from 2024/25.
“So that’s what we deal with all the time, that’s what I’m talking about all the time when I say we have to reduce games, the FA or whatever,” he continued.
“It’s just because the best players play all the time. That’s how it is.
“Then people tell us to leave them out or rotate – funnily enough, who leaves the best players out? It’s not that easy.
“So we have to sort that in the future with bigger squads, I think, and even more level squads internally.
“If that’s possible, I don’t know, but it’s probably the only way to deal with it – for the national teams and for the club teams.
“We will see how that will work out, but that’s the direction we have to develop if nobody reduces the games.”