LONDON — Liverpool and Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk believes the Merseyside outfit is in a transitional phase but said he had lots to offer club and country after last season’s struggles.
Once a fan favourite who could not put a foot wrong, the 32-year-old was criticised for his performances last term but told reporters he felt he had got the new campaign off to a promising start, despite being sent off at Newcastle United last month.
“We are in a kind of transition phase with Liverpool,” Van Dijk told Dutch media.
“So of course it’s nice to feel that the manager (Juergen Klopp) still considers me part of the new team, of Liverpool 2.0 so to speak. We spoke a lot in the first weeks of preparation. That showed confidence in me.”
Liverpool finished a disappointing fifth in the Premier League last season and missed out on the lucrative Champions League for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
Centre back Van Dijk was named Liverpool captain after the departure of Jordan Henderson to Saudi Arabia in July and said there were differences in the role for club and country.
“Naturally I´m proud and it is a big responsibility,” he said. “This is no different with the Dutch national team but with Oranje you are often only together for a few days, so the number of tasks as captain is not too bad.
“There’s a lot involved at the club, both on and off the field. You get involved in almost everything.”
Van Dijk was sent off after 28 minutes in the 2-1 win at Newcastle, allegedly swearing at the referee as he left the field, and has been charged by the FA for acting in an improper manner in the aftermath of being shown a red card.
“That was not typical for me but that was the red card anyway,” said Van Dijk according to Reuters.
“I’ve never got one before at Liverpool, and I think only about four times in my entire career. But apart from that I still started the season well.
“I feel good and strong. I think it went well against Chelsea (1-1 draw) and Bournemouth (3-1 win). Despite the red card, the start was fine. I cannot wait to return.”
Van Dijk was suspended for last Sunday´s 3-0 win over Aston Villa and could have that ban extended for another match.
Liverpool are third in the standings with 10 points from four games, two points behind leaders Manchester City.
Van Dijk also said he had time to reflect in the close season, with a decent break without a post-season tournament.
“I have spoken a lot with people around me in recent months. My wife is very important in this but I also have people at the club with whom I talk a lot,” he said.
“It starts with being self-critical as a football player and always wondering how things can be better. At the end of last season, I already noticed that I was improving.”