Virgil van Dijk has admitted that criticism of him this season has been fair, saying that his focus is on improving after a disappointing season.
The Dutchman has started 36 of Liverpool’s 46 games this season but has often been on the end of criticism of his form for both club and country.
Among those to have criticised are Jamie Carragher and Dutch legends Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit.
“No one is immune to criticism,” Van Dijk admitted in an interview with the Sunday Times‘ Jonathan Northcroft. “If someone said that, they are lying.”
It’s a refreshing approach from a footballer, especially when some supporters are so afraid of saying anything negative about their team.
Van Dijk knows that he and Liverpool haven’t been good enough:
“When the criticism is there and you know it is right, the only thing you can do is keep your head down and focus on improving.
“I know my performance has been going like the team has been going — up and down.
“I know I’m one of the players who is looked at, that I set a high standard over the last five years that it’s normal to be criticised. The only thing I can do is block the noise out and focus on how I deal with certain situations to be better.”
Last month the 31-year-old admitted he had played too much football recently, sacrificing himself in order to be available during last season’s quadruple pursuit.
“What caught up is that I played too many games at a time,” he said in March. “’ll do everything possible to play but I could have also thought before the World Cup, ‘let’s rest a little bit in order to be ready’.
“But I didn’t because I want to be influential for this football club but it caught up with me unfortunately.
“I’m not a robot and I think having the World Cup and then doing nothing for a week and coming back it was maybe not the right decision.”
The centre-back, though, has vowed to improve, telling Northcroft: “Over the past five years, excluding the year of my injury [2020/21], I’ve been playing every three or four days to such a consistent level.
“I’m trying to get back to that — and I will get back it. I’m not worried about that.
“I still think I can learn and improve.”
It’s possible that the new system Jurgen Klopp is currently implementing, of a back three at times, could help Van Dijk regain his form.