Virgil Van Dijk : The journey of one of the world’s finest defenders

Virgil Van Dijk : The journey of one of the world’s finest defenders

Virgil Van Dijk is a proffessional footballer who plays as a defender for English premiership side Liverpool and also captain of the Dutch senior national team. The 6ft 4inch tall defender is widely considered as one of the best centre backs in the world currently, the 2019 UEFA men’s player of the year is known for his ruggedness, strength, leadership and intimidating aerial ability.


EARLY LIFE


Van Dijk was born in Breda on 8 July 1991 to a Dutch father and a Surinimese mother, as a child little Van would play football anywhere he could, be it on the street, concrete floors and cages and especially every Saturday morning. He combined his playing time at Willem II academy with a part-time dishwashing job. Van Dijk initially tried his hand as a right back but was unsuccessful, then he moved to a centre back position in 2008 after he grew in height by around 18cm at the age of 17.


Willem II reserve team coach at that time Edwin Hermans believed he had so many limitations which prevented him from breaking into the main team. In 2010 he moved to Groningen on a free transfer after he was scouted by former Dutch coach Martin Coeman who was working with Groningen as at that time, initially he struggled to break into the main team, this was attributed to tiredness from extensive playing time with Willem II reserve team, according to the club medical team, Van Dijk was “overtired”.
He made his proffesional debut for the club on 1st may 2010, coming on as a 72nd minute substitute for Petter Anderson in a 4-2 victory against ADO Den Haag, coincidentally he also made his first start against the same club on 29th May the same year.


CAREER


Late 2011 after his 20th birthday, Van Dijk sufffered a personal setback as he was admitted to the hospital with peritonitis and kidney poisoning, he later revealed that he was close to dying as a result of that incident. He however returned to Groningen and continued to impress the following season. At the of the season, it was obvious that he had overgrown the club, he was offered to bigger clubs including Ajax, all of which declined signing him. Instead in June 2013 he moved to Celtic of Scotland for a fee of around £2.6million on a four year deal. He made his Celtic debut on 17th August 2013 replacing Efe Ambrose for the final 13 minutes of a 2-0 win against Aberdeen in a Scottish premiership game. He spent two seasons at Celtic before he was eventually sold to English premiership side Southampton, where he signed a five-year contract with Southampton then managed by Ronald Coeman on a transfer fee reportedly worth £13 million.
He made his Southampton debut on September 12 2015 in a 0-0 draw with West Bromwich Albion in a cup game, two weeks later he marked his first English premiership appearance with a goal scoring with a header against Swansea just 11 minutes into the game, a match Southampton went ahead to win 3-1 at home. Less than a year into his initial contract with Southampton on 7 may 2016 Van Dijk signed a new six year contract extension with the saints. The following season 2010/2017 season on the 22 January 2017 he was named the team captain after the departure of then captain Jose Fonte, the same day he suffered an ankle injury in a game against Leicester which ruled him out for the EFL cup final a game Southampton lost to Manchester United Wimbley. After a successful 2016/2017 season Van Dijk handed in a transfer request and also released a statement expressing his desire to move to a different club in the transfer window. He remained with Southampton for the start of 2017/2018 season, in December 2017 it was announced that Van Dijk would move to Liverpool when the winter transfer window opens on a reported transfer fee of £75 million, thus making him the most expensive defender in the world and also setting a British transfer record.


LIVERPOOL


At Liverpool Van Dirk had gone ahead to establish himself as the finest defender in the EPL and in the world, he made his Liverpool debut in a 3rd round FA cup game against Everton scoring a late header in a 2-1 win. At the end of the season Van Dijk was included in the UEFA team of the season despite playing just half of the season, the UEFA technical observers stated that Van Dijk’s arrival provided composure and stability bin the Liverpool team, incidentally Liverpool got to the final of the champions league that year but lost to Real Madrid 1-3 in the finals.
Fast forward to 2018/2019 season Van Dijk and Liverpool had gotten better and stronger, this culminated in Liverpool lifting the 2018/2019 champions league trophy with a 2-0 victory against Tottenham, Van Dijk was named man of the match in the finals. Apart from winning the UEFA champions league that year, Liverpool also missed winning the English premier league by whiskers. At the end of the 2018/2019 season, Van Dijk was named the UEFA player of the year 2019, and voted runner up FIFA men’s best player 2019 finishing runner-up to Lionel Messi.


INTERNATIONAL CAREER AND STYLE OF PLAY


Van Dijk made his full international debut for Netherlands on 10th October 2015 in a 2-1 victory against Kazakhstan in a UEFA Euro 2016 qualifier, he was named the national team captain by manager Ronald Coeman on 22nd March 2018. Van Dijk is physically strong, right footed and usually positioned on the left hand side of central defence though he can also play on the right hand side. He is pacy, has good techniques and good at set pieces, he scored some freekicks for Celtic. When Messi was asked about him in an interview in 2019, he said ” he is a defender who knows how to judge his timing and wait for the time to challenge, he is very fast and big, but he has a lot of agility for his height. He is fast because of it’s (sic) great strides, and he is impressive both in defence and attack because he scores lots of goals”.


PERSONAL LIFE AND SPONSORSHIP


Van Dijk is married to Rike Nooitgedagt and the marriage is blessed with a daughter Nila. According to his uncle Stevens, Van Dijk changed the name written on his shirt in 2018 from his surname to his first name as a result of a rift between him and his father, Van Dijk now uses his first name “Virjil” on his kit. Bcause of the resulting bitterness and bad blood from the feud with his father, the rift was a result of father abandonihia mother and her three children including Van Dijk his younger brother Jordan and sister Jennifer.
In terms of sponsorship Van Dijk features as the cover star of the champions edition of EA SPORTS’ FIFA video game FIFA 20 he is also endorsed by sportswear company NIKE.


PHILANTROPY


The centre-back and his wife Rike have provided major support to Owen McVeigh Foundation, set up by Mark and Joanne McVeigh after their son Owen had passed away at the age of 11 in December 2015 following a short battle with leukaemia.

The foundation’s aim is to enrich the lives of kids fighting with cancer and to establish help and support to their families. And van Dijk has been huge for the charity organization. The foundation is usually building up a Christmas party for around 50 children, however, the Dutchman contacted the creators and offered his hand which allowed to make 120 kids happier for the bright holiday.

Career statistics


Club

As of match played 11 March 2020

Appearances and goals by club, season and competition

    Club                 Season            Division                Apps     Goals

Groningen          2010/11           Eredivisie              5               2

                            2011/12           Eredivisie              23             3

                            2012/13           Eredivisie              34             2

                                                      Total                      62             7

Celtic.                 2013/14              SPL                      36           5

                            2014/15              SPL                      35            4

                            2015/16               SPL                       5             0

                                                        Total                      76            9    

Southampton    2015/16               EPL                      34            3

                            2016/17               EPL                      21            1

                     2017/18               EPL                      12            0

                                                        Total                      68            4

Liverpool            2017/18               EPL                      14            0

                             2018/19               EPL                       38           4

                             2019/20               EPL                       29           4

                                                        Total                       81           8

                                           Club Career total              286         28

International

As of match played 16 November 2019

Appearances and goals by national team and year

National team                 Year         Apps         Goals

Netherlands                    2015           3                 0

                                          2016           9                 0

                                          2017           4                 0

                                          2018           8                 3

                                          2019           9                 1

                                          Total          33               4

Austine Ihechukwu

Austine Ihechukwu is a Chemistry Education graduate, a prolific writer, Social and Political Commentator. Austine is a seeker of knowledge and a fitness Enthusiast with interest in Sports, Entertainment, Tourism, Technology, History and Business investments. Mr Austine has over a decade experience in Journalism and freelance writing

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