Virgil van Dijk Opens Up About Liverpool Struggles in Candid Response to Roy Keane’s Criticism

Virgil van Dijk Opens Up About Liverpool Struggles in Candid Response to Roy Keane’s Criticism

Virgil Van Dijk is aware of his underwhelming performance without needing criticism from others. However, following a week where the Liverpool defender revisited his humble beginnings in the Netherlands, the 31-year-old acknowledged the need to prove that he still has the ability and influence.

During a break from international duty, Van Dijk returned to his hometown of Breda to attend the official opening of a Johan Cruyff football court, located in the housing estate where he grew up. The court is situated next to the Olympia Catholic School that he attended as a child.

This visit provided Van Dijk with an opportune moment to reflect on one of the most challenging years of his career. Throughout this period, pundits such as Marco van Basten, Roy Keane, Jamie Carragher, and Gary Neville have been highly critical of his performances.

Van Dijk, who came in second place with a mere seven-point difference behind Lionel Messi in the 2019 Ballon d’Or vote, openly shared that he endured an unprecedented level of mental pressure and strain during that time.

Van Dijk said: “I don’t feel too big to be vulnerable. It has been quite an intense season, with many ups and downs and people must understand that we aren’t robots. It has been a year in which I learned a lot – especially off the pitch, and certainly mentally.

“In football it’s never plain sailing – but this season was still quite a shock. Sometimes the criticism was just right, both on the team and on me individually. But quite often it was not quite right. Either way, you have to be able to deal with it – and I’m glad I came out of it well. Mentally, that’s not always easy.”

Van Basten launched a verbal assault on Van Dijk, accusing him of “creating a commotion without substance” with his performances.

Keane criticized Liverpool, stating that they were defending poorly and compared their defensive performance to that of a pub team. Neville suggested that opposing players targeted Van Dijk because they believed they could exploit his vulnerabilities. Carragher went as far as saying that he would personally replace Van Dijk if given the opportunity.

Van Dijk added: “Criticism is part of it – and it’s certainly not a problem if it’s justified. But a footballer knows when he has played well or badly. Some comments are also only intended to be controversial and are said just for the sake of saying them. There are so many platforms on which people can express their opinions these days.

“The problem is that, as a footballer, you can’t really say much back. If you do that once, you immediately have the puppets dancing. I am someone who consciously doesn’t read, listen or watch much. I can shut myself off from it. But you do get told a lot by other people – and then you can’t escape it.”

During the most challenging moments when Jurgen Klopp’s team was struggling to uphold the high standards that nearly led them to achieve an unprecedented quadruple in 2022, Van Dijk sought support from his family, friends, and the coaching staff at Anfield.

Van Dijk said: “I always talk to people who are close to me. That’s really important. No-one is too big to talk or to make yourself vulnerable. At home I talk a lot with my wife and at the club we have enough people you can talk to who specialise in that. No player has a career with only highlights.

“But if criticism is fierce and negative, you can suffer as an athlete. The trick is to deal with it properly – and I’m quite happy how that has gone in the last few months.”

Liverpool managed to stage a late-season comeback and secured qualification for the Europa League. On the other hand, Holland’s chances of winning the Nations League were dashed as they suffered a 4-2 defeat to Croatia on Friday night.

Van Dijk said: “I still have two years left on my contract and I assume that they (Liverpool) still consider me important for the team. If not, I am sure I would have heard about it. My contact with the manager is good and I feel very positive about things again. The way we finished the season motivates me to go into pre-season with the new players who are coming in.”

Virgil van Dijk Opens Up About Liverpool Struggles in Candid Response to Roy Keane’s Criticism

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