Virgil van Dijk has ruled out captaining the Netherlands at the European Championship finals this summer to focus on regaining full fitness with Liverpool.
The Liverpool defender is still recovering from the cruciate ligament injury that curtailed his season in October and his manager, Jürgen Klopp, insists it would have taken a “miracle” for him to return for the delayed Euro 2020 finals. Van Dijk, in his first interview since the injury, has announced he will not be part of Frank de Boer’s squad.
“It’s been a very, very long road,” Van Dijk told the club’s website. “I had to take it step by step. Things have been going well, I’ve not had a real setback or anything – I’ve just progressed nicely.
“In this latest stage for myself, I have come to a decision that I had to make: would I be involved in the Euros, yes or no? With everything that is going on, I feel physically it is the right decision that I’ve decided not to go to the Euros and to go into my last phase of rehab during the off-season. The full focus will be on pre-season with the club and that’s a realistic goal.
“I am gutted to miss the Euros and leading out my own country there, but things have been like they have and I have to accept it. It’s tough, but I’m at peace with it.”
Van Dijk will continue training on a daily basis at Kirkby in the close season and believes a return at the start of the 2021-22 campaign is a realistic target. Having watched Liverpool being deposed as Premier League champions in his absence, and struggle to qualify for next season’s Champions League, he said the past seven months have been hard on and off the pitch.
“We all know how the season has gone – and we’re not happy with how it’s gone. It’s been frustrating for all of us, for all the Liverpool fans. With everything that is going on in the world and in the football world as well, personally it has been a very tough year, but I am looking forward to next season.
“I am looking forward to football hopefully with fans, and with Holland we will try to reach the next tournament and hopefully I can lead the boys there for a historical tournament. But we’re not there yet. It’s going to be a very, very hard but hopefully promising 18 months for club and country.”
Klopp is more cautious about the defender’s chances of being fit for the start of next season. “It is one of the most serious injuries you can get,” he said. “The injury he has has an average of 11 months [of recovery]. It happened in October so that means September. The plan is he can start pre-season with us but even that is not sure. The Euros just come in the wrong moment. The good news for Holland is he will be 100% when he comes back.”