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Jurgen Klopp insists he is NOT worried about Virgil van Dijk’s form… with the Dutch defender in the spotlight after the Reds collapsed in 5-2 Champions League loss against Real Madrid
Jurgen Klopp has launched an impassioned defence of Virgil van Dijk and insisted he has no concerns about his star defender’s form.
The Holland international returned from a six-week absence due to a damaged hamstring, to start against Newcastle last Saturday. Klopp wanted to get minutes into him at St James’s Park, so he was prepared for the Champions League showdown with Real Madrid.
But that 5-2 defeat ended up with Van Dijk being one of many players in the spotlight. He is 31 now and critics feel he will never recapture the form he showed in his first two years at Anfield, when he helped Liverpool win the Champions League and Premier League.
While it is true that Van Dijk has had endured difficulties, the challenge he had of overcoming the dreadful knee injury he sustained in October 2020 – and the effort that was required to come back – tends not to be mentioned. Klopp, by contrast, sees things from another angle.
‘I think differently because I give people time,’ Klopp said. ‘The world outside doesn’t give people time. This world is a crazy place. Not only football but all. We don’t have time for anything anymore. We know everything immediately, we Google everything: bam! Bam! Bam! Now or never.
Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp has launched an impassioned defence of star defender Virgil van Dijk
Van Dijk struggled as the Reds were thrashed 5-2 by Real Madrid in the Champions League
But German manager Klopp has insisted he has no concerns over the centre back’s showings
‘I am from a different time. I know that everybody needs time to develop and get back to their best. Everything needs time in life and everyone accepts that for themselves, but not for other people. I couldn’t care less about that.’
Klopp added of Van Dijk, who has played almost non-stop since August 2021: ‘But again, it’s fine. It’s part of the whole show that we get judged. It’s completely normal people do that. We played two good games and you will write: ‘Best Van Dijk ever!’
If Van Dijk looks out of sorts, the same is true, too, for Fabinho. He had been regarded as one of the world’s best defensive midfielders but, this season, his form has disappeared over a cliff and it has been a source of bewilderment to those who have watched him on a weekly basis.
Liverpool’s manager recognises the Brazil international has been struggling. It could be said, too, that the World Cup has had a damaging effect on nearly every member of his squad who went to Qatar, with their form or injuries compromising them in the last two months.
But, again, Klopp will not judge him on the back of a challenging period. He will give the same level of patience to the 29-year-old but appreciates that patience is not plentiful supply for a club in Liverpool’s position.
‘It took a while but I think Fabinho is now completely different to what we saw four or five weeks ago – we have to keep that going now,’ said Klopp. ‘It’s like 80% but he was not at all a problem in the game (against Madrid), he looked a lot better but had to play a lot.
‘So it is not like click! Click! Click! He is back, play on, these kinds of things because we have plenty of No 6s. Stefan (Bajcetic) can play it, Hendo can play it, but when Fabinho is at his best, it is really important to have him there because he sorts or used to sort a lot of situations for us.
‘That was fine in these last few games. Did Fabinho come back from an injury? No! It can just happen. A drop in form and no-one expected and you look at it and think: ‘OK, it is interesting to watch.’ But yes, everything needs time in a business when there is no time. That’s the problem.’
Klopp also defended the out-of-form and under-fire defensive midfielder Fabinho (right)