‘Too nonchalant’ and ‘unwanted by Rodgers’, Virgil van Dijk’s rise from humble beginnings to Liverpool Premier League winner is down to hard work
- June 23, 2020
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The Netherlands international was runner-up in last year’s Ballon d’Or to Lionel Messi, is a Champions League winner, and is now on the verge of turning Liverpool from contenders to Premier League champions.
The 28-year-old came from humble beginnings with Willem II before moving to Dutch club FC Groningen where he got his first taste of senior football.
One former teammate Tim Sparv, who currently plays for FC Midtjylland, gave an insight into what made Van Dijk a bit different.
Sparv told talkSPORT.com: “You could see he had potential for sure. Not everyone who has potential reaches the heights he has done. He came from a smaller club than Groningen in Holland and came with everyone hoping the best for him.
“You could see he had talent and physical attributes and was good on the ball. You could see, if he worked for it, he could play in a better league.
“In the beginning we used him as a striker in some of the games because we had some good central defenders and because of his physical presence, his ability to hold the ball up, win his headers and cause havoc in the opponent’s penalty area.
“He was really versatile back then. He was very comfortable on the ball and you could see you could play him out of position and he could take it in his stride even though he was a young player. That made me aware that maybe this guy has something that could take him to the next level.”
Van Dijk did not just rest on his natural ability, though, and started putting in the work off the training field to push himself to the next level.
Sparv added: “It took some time for him to adapt and maybe become aware of what it takes to become a professional footballer but when he got the hang of that and became even more professional and spent more time in the gym working on his game there was nothing stopping him.
“We had a group that would do some extra gym work in the afternoons once or twice a week. At first he was not part of that group. After a while he would always be there.
“It told me that when he joined this small group to do some extra work he not only has the potential and talent for it but is also willing to do the hard work.”