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Making of Virgil Van Dijk - From a dishwasher to the ‘Der Kaiser’ of modern football

Virgil Van Dijk's journey from a dishwasher to being one of the greatest defenders of modern football is nothing less than extraordinary.

Last updated: 19.03.2019
Virgil Van Dijk celebrating on the field

“The Best Defence is a strong offence”, a saying that has been the story behind the success of many clubs but it always eluded Liverpool. The English club for years struggled in their defensive department. But the 2017/18 campaign’s winter transfer window changed their unlucky charm into the fortune when Liverpool got their man: Virgil Van Dijk. The Der Kaiser (Emperor) of modern football, Van Dijk's arrival has changed the scenario at Liverpool. 

Teams like Manchester City and Chelsea who are known for their pacey attack have found it go past the formidable wall of Van Dijk. Interestingly, the man had doubted about his success and if he would live up to his price tag but the Netherland international has silenced his critics once and for all. 

But where did it all began for him?


Chapter 1: Groningen 

Born to a Dutch father and Suranimese mother, Van Djik began his career as a right-back but was later moved to a centre-back after a sudden growth in height. He was spotted by former Willem II goalkeeper Frank Brugel. 

Brugel main focus was to take his son to local amateur matches. Brugel’s son Jordy was a goalkeeper just like him and did not concede many goals. He was talented but so was one of the defenders who was protecting him. Brugel in an interview once said that he saw a little centre-back who offered unwavering protection to his goalie and even strode forward to give his attackers extra support. That was Virgil Van Dijk. 

Van Djik began his career at Willem II before a transfer to Groningen. He would often balance his playing career and a job of the dishwasher at a restaurant during his youth. Van Dijk made his debut for the Eredivisie side against ADO Den Hag in 2011. He made 23 appearances for his club that season and also scored his first professional goal. However, it was not at Groningen that Van Dijk had turned eyes of many towards him.


Chapter 2: Celtic - Making of a legend 

Celtic had bought Van Djik for a transfer fee of £2.6 million on a four-year contract. During his time with Celtic, the Liverpool defender scored nine times but it was his solo run goal against St Johnston that stood out of the rest. The Scottish club had lost just one match of that season. Van Dijk was one of the three players named in the PFA Scotland Team of the Year. And so was the story of rest of his time in Scotland. Fast forward to Liverpool and his contribution to the Reds.


Chapter 3: Liverpool: Best Defender in the world

 With the continued growth of Joe Gomez, Trent Arnold and Andrew Robertson, also signing of Allison, fans had expected the Liverpool defence would improve. However, little did anyone expect the level to which the Reds would ascend to in the 2018-19 season. This season or since Van Djik’s arrival, no team has conceded fewer goals or has more clean sheets than Liverpool. They have just conceded 18 goals so far this season and the way they are playing, it is possible Liverpool concede just 21 goals by the end of the season. 

It would make them the side with the best defensive since Chelsea 2004/05 season. This sudden change has made Liverpool into a legitimate contender for the Premier League title for the first time in six years and the man responsible for this on-pitch revolution is Virgil Van Dijk. 

Van Dijk's dominance at the defensive end of the pitch has been evident even on the stat sheet. He is ranked top three in interceptions, blocks, and clearances while playing a comparatively safe and clean game. He has been yellow carded just once and has conceded 12 fouls. 

Yes, these stats speak world about him in defence but little does it tell about his contribution up front. He has scored three times with one assist in 31 appearances. Interestingly, where he has really improved is his passing. In football, all the attacks start from the defence. And the player with most passes is Chelsea’s Jorginho, but just behind him is van Djik. He averages a little over 71 passes per match. 

Many although credit Mohammed Salah for Liverpool’s recent success which is not false either, as to win goals a team much score goals. But one must not forget ‘an attacker can only win you matches, but it is the defender who wins you the championship’. Van Dijk has been the solution to Liverpool’s defensive conundrum. He has become the Emperor on-field.

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