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Exclusive: “He only wanted to come here” – Van Dijk’s special relationship with Liverpool fans explained

Virgil van Dijk’s special relationship with Liverpool fans has been explained by club historian John Williams in a section of a new book about the Netherlands international.

Dutch journalist Jan Willem Spaans has kindly shared a section of his upcoming book Virgil van Dijk: A day in the life with CaughtOffside, in which Williams recalls how Van Dijk only ever wanted a move to Anfield despite other clubs also being in for him.

The Reds star looked world class at his previous club Southampton and could surely have moved to pretty much any team of his liking, but Liverpool will be delighted they got him, with his impact at Anfield proving tremendous so far.

MORE: How scout’s jaw dropped upon hearing Virgil van Dijk was an amateur and didn’t train with first-team – “Henk, I’ve spotted someone here”

Van Dijk has already played in two Champions League finals for Liverpool, winning last season’s one against Tottenham in Madrid, whilst putting the Merseyside giants on the brink of Premier League glory this term.

Speaking about the instant bond Van Dijk has struck up with the Kop, Williams said: “Not many people speak about this anymore, but he really wanted to join Liverpool. He identified with the club and with the supporters. Even when he got the chance to go and play elsewhere, he only wanted to come here. And that is very important to Liverpool supporters. They feel that you should understand the supporters’ emotions and passion, need to understand why the club is so important. The people believe that Virgil understands that and that he really wants to be a part of it.”

Of course, a connection with the club would not be enough on its own, and Van Dijk has also delivered on the pitch, becoming one of the best defenders in the world, and, according to Williams, perhaps already close to becoming regarded as the best defender in LFC’s long and proud history.

He added: “That’s an interesting discussion that often pops up this season in my group of friends. There are those supporting Alan Hansen, but now there’s also a group of people that does favour Virgil.

“Most people who do want to make this judgement, want to wait until Virgil has been at the club for five years, they want to see a little bit more. But he’s played in two Champions League finals, got closer than anyone else to winning the Premier League.

lfc-virgil-van-dijk

Virgil van Dijk has proven a hugely important signing for Liverpool

“I think you can say Virgil is a more complete central defender than even the great Alan Hansen, who also was a great player. It’s just that Virgil has more in his locker. Hansen had plenty of qualities himself. He could dribble it in from the back, and he was a brilliant reader of the game, even if he wasn’t very tall. And he wasn’t necessarily the leader Virgil is.

“So that debate is truly alive at the moment. Even amongst people like myself, who have always said Hansen was the best central defender we would ever have. Even those people are now starting to think ‘maybe, if I see another season like this from Virgil, that might actually change’. He is great.”

Read on for the extract in full…

At the end of Red Men, the author put together his all-time favourite Liverpool XI since the club’s foundation in 1892 up to the book release in 2010. The centre-back positions are occupied by Emlyn Hughes and Alan Hansen, both players with a huge trophy cabinet. Do these two have anything to fear from Virgil just yet? “That’s an interesting discussion that often pops up this season in my group of friends. There are those supporting Alan Hansen, but now there’s also a group of people that does favour Virgil. Most people who do want to make this judgement, want to wait until Virgil has been at the club for five years, they want to see a little bit more. But he’s played in two Champions League finals, got closer than anyone else to winning the Premier League. I think you can say Virgil is a more complete central defender than even the great Alan Hansen, who also was a great player. It’s just that Virgil has more in his locker. Hansen had plenty of qualities himself. He could dribble it in from the back, and he was a brilliant reader of the game, even if he wasn’t very tall. And he wasn’t necessarily the leader Virgil is. So that debate is truly alive at the moment. Even amongst people like myself, who have always said Hansen was the best central defender we would ever have. Even those people are now starting to think ‘maybe, if I see another season like this from Virgil, that might actually change’. He is great”, Williams says. It is admiration on a level unseen for someone who’s only been at the club for eighteen months. It’s not just his behaviour on the pitch that wins him all these plaudits. How did Virgil manage to win over the crowd this quickly? His popularity is on an enormous level, even above Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah, though attacking players tend to get more love. Yet it is his name and the number four that are getting picked the most to be printed on the back of the red shirt. “Not many people speak about this anymore, but he really wanted to join Liverpool. He identified with the club and with the supporters. Even when he got the chance to go and play elsewhere, he only wanted to come here. And that is very important to Liverpool supporters. They feel that you should understand the supporters’ emotions and passion, need to understand why the club is so important. The people believe that Virgil understands that and that he really wants to be a part of it. But that on its own is not enough, of course you need to be able to play as well. He also has a lot of quality to bring to the table. He gives us leadership and defensive stability in abundance. He wants to be part of the club and ensures the bond with the supporters because he performs well on the pitch too. And that relationship runs very deep. A couple of games before the Champions League final, something happened that I have seen happening to very few players. Steven Gerrard was one of them. If he went down injured, all of Anfield would go quiet. The people knew that it would have serious consequences if Gerrard was out for a significant period. The same happened with Virgil. He was down on the pitch and the whole ground held its collective breath. At this moment, no player is as important as Virgil, and such a reaction is scarce, for people to just hold their breath.”

And here’s a neat summary of the book, available via the Kobo link above, from the author Spaans: “Some players always had a clear path to the top laid out to them. Virgil van Dijk climbed the hill in his own way. Liverpool’s number four was instrumental in the Reds’ sixth Champions League final win in 2019. This book narrates two stories, offering both a close-up view on proceedings on June 1,2019, the date of the final, and the insider’s view of how Virgil ended up there. Both these tales are about willpower and supreme quality. This is A Day in the Life of Virgil van Dijk, and part of the proceedings will be donated to Fans Supporting Foodbanks.”

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