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LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Friday, January 5, 2018: Liverpool's match winning goal-scorer Virgil van Dijk celebrates with manager J¸rgen Klopp after the 2-1 victory over Everton during the FA Cup 3rd Round match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, the 230th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“He wanted me and me only” – Virgil van Dijk’s heartfelt tribute to Jurgen Klopp

Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk admits he will be forever grateful to “icon” Jurgen Klopp for helping shape his successful career.

The Netherlands international was singled out by Klopp as the man he wanted to build his defence around in the summer of 2017 but, after a bungled transfer bid which eventually cost the club an additional £10 million as he became the world’s most expensive defender for £75 million, he eventually joined six months later.

The fact Klopp did not immediately move on to another target and was prepared to wait has never been forgotten by the Dutchman.

“Obviously he means a lot to me. He is one of the reasons I wanted to join the club,” Van Dijk exclusively told the PA news agency ahead of the manager’s final match after eight and a half years at Anfield.

“He is a special character definitely. He is an icon.

“He wanted me and me only, he felt I was a big part of the success that could happen and I could definitely contribute to that. I am glad that it all went well.

“The club is one of the big reasons but it was the whole package and the manager has been great.

“When I had to think about it and make the decision I had to take the whole package – the club, the manager and everything that he was planning to happen – and there were no guarantees but it was a big motivation for me to come here and I am glad I did, with the success that we had.

“If you are very picky and look at things all the time we could have had more success together but it is what it is and I am very proud to be part of this and played under him.

“He has been a big part of my success and in my career and I will be forever grateful for that.”

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (left), manager Jurgen Klopp (centre) and Virgil van Dijk celebrate after the UEFA Champions League Semi Final, second leg match at Anfield, Liverpool.

Klopp has not only been a leader for the players and the club but for fans and the city of Liverpool as a whole.

Van Dijk said that ability to connect outside his immediate circle of influence makes him more than just a football manager.

“He will be forever remembered as who he is, the successes we had, the personality on and off the pitch for the city,” he added.

“That is special and to become a manager of Liverpool it is not only being a manager on the touchline it is a lot more than that and he pretty much did that perfectly in my opinion. He did everything well.”

 

Barnes: Jurgen in top 2 Liverpool managers

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 5, 2024: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp waves to supporters after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 4-2. (Photo by Ryan Brown/Propaganda)

Former winger John Barnes believes Klopp’s influence can only be compared with the man who began the club’s revolution in late 1959.

“For me Bill Shankly and Jurgen are the two greatest managers Liverpool have had,” he said.

“Because it is always harder to start something than continue it and Jurgen had to restart in terms of where we were to put us back to where we are.

“From where we where to what he has done, taking us right back up to the top alongside Manchester City, that for me is the legacy, bringing Liverpool back to where they belong.

“A manager coming after is coming at a better time than when Jurgen came in, with a better team than when Jurgen came and with a chance of continuing Jurgen’s legacy.”

MADRID, SPAIN - SATURDAY, JUNE 1, 2019: Liverpool's players throw Liverpool Manager Jurgen Klopp in the air as they celebrate a 2-0 victory in the UEFA Champions League Final match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Estadio Metropolitano. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

Barnes’ former team-mate Jan Molby believes Klopp’s biggest contribution will be remembered not for the trophies which were won but the journey he took fans on.

“People are very quick trying to compare Klopp to some of the biggest managers in Liverpool’s history,” said the former Denmark international.

“You can only compare on trophies and in that respect he doesn’t come out very well because they won a lot more.

“In years to come we will remember Klopp for the man he was and the impact he had, not that he won the Premier League and the Champions League, because we had managers who have outdone him on that front.

“We can all see what he has done as a football manager so I think it will be more of his human traits than just basically winning trophies.

“His legacy is almost as big behind the scenes for the local community. I think Klopp will come out of this with a lot of people having individual stories about Klopp and the impact he has had on their lives.”