If Liverpool is to repeat as Premier League champions this season, it might have to do it without Virgil van Dijk, perhaps the club’s most irreplaceable player.
Van Dijk, who was forced out of Saturday’s controversial 3-3 draw with rival Everton following a ludicrous tackle by Toffees keeper Jordan Pickford, will undergo surgery to repair ligament damage in his right knee, Liverpool confirmed on Sunday. The exact nature of the injury isn’t known, and in its statement the club said that “no specific timescale is being placed upon” van Dijk’s return to the field.
If it’s the anterior cruciate ligament that needs repaired, though, van Dijk would be hard pressed to return to full fitness by the end of the season. ACL tears typically require up to eight months to heal after being reconstructed.
The news comes as no surprise.
“It is not good,” Reds manager Klopp said of van Dijk’s prognosis immediately after the match. “Virgil played for us I don’t know how many games in a row. He plays with pain, he plays with pretty much everything, but he couldn’t play on. That’s not good.”
The Reds were robbed of the three points against chief rival Everton on Saturday, Jurgen Klopp’s team forced to settle for a single point after two outcome-altering calls by the video assistant referee. The first blown call involved Pickford’s challenge; VAR somehow allowed England’s World Cup goalkeeper to stay on the field for what should’ve been a surefire red card offense.
The VAR’s incompetence struck again in second-half stoppage time, when Sadio Mané was judged offside on what should have been Jordan Henderson’s game-winner despite inconclusive replays.
It was a draw that felt like a loss to Reds boss Jurgen Klopp. But with van Dijk and recently acquired midfielder Thiago Alcântara taken to the hospital afterward — Thiago was on the end of a horrific 90th-minute tackle by Everton forward Richarlison who, unlike Pickford, was sent off — the result literally added insult to injury.
Livepool won its first English title in 30 years last season, the end of which was delayed by three months because of the coronavirus pandemic. And while the biggest plaudits went to attacking stars such as Mané and Mohamed Salah, van Dijk was the Reds’ rock.
In 2019, the now 29-year-old finished runner-up to Barcelona’s Lionel Messi for the Ballon d’Or award that is normally given annually to the world’s best player. The Ballon d’Or was not awarded this year because of the interruption caused by the health crisis.
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