By Carl Markham, PA
A “gutted” Virgil Van Dijk has reluctantly ruled himself out Holland’s squad for Euro 2020 in order for him to concentrate on being fully fit for the start of next season with Liverpool.
The influential centre-back has been out for seven months after undergoing surgery on a cruciate ligament in his right knee which was ruptured in a challenge with Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in October.
After being in a “bad place” at the start of his recovery he now feels more positive after returning to light running but he does not believe the time is right to push harder in order to captain Holland this summer.
He's our centre-half, he's our number 4...🎶
You can't wait for him to be back, and @VirgilvDijk feels the same about you! ❤️
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 12, 2021
“I have come to a decision that I had to make: would I be involved in the Euros, yes or no?,” he told liverpoolfc.com.
“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.
“So the full focus will be on pre-season with the club and that’s a realistic goal, so I am looking forward to that.
“Obviously I am very 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 – we all have to accept it.
“I think the decision to not go is the right decision in the grand scheme of things. It’s tough, but I’m at peace with it.”
Van Dijk admits it was a difficult decision to make but he knew that with his rehabilitation going so well there was no point in risking a major setback by rushing back just to play this summer when he knows a World Cup qualification campaign is just around the corner.
That is even more pertinent as Holland’s previous failure to qualify for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup means Van Dijk will be 31 before he can make his major tournament debut, providing they qualify for Qatar next year.
“I am very gutted to not be going to the Euros,” he added.
“The surgeon is very happy with everything that is going on and, as I said, the good thing is I’ve not really had a setback so far and hopefully that will not happen.
“I think this decision has definitely been the right one, in my opinion, to give my body and my knee a little bit more extra time to get ready for hopefully a big, big 18 months at least with the club but also with my country because we’re trying to go to the next tournament after this as well and that starts in September.
“Obviously I want to be back out there, I want to be helping my team-mates, helping my country in this case and I obviously want to help the club, but I think it’s the right thing to do to stay a little bit more patient and work even harder during the off-season and get ready.”
Liverpool have sorely missed their leader at the back, especially as his absence was compounded by long-term injuries to fellow central defenders Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, but Van Dijk has also found it difficult being away.
“It’s been a very, very tough journey so far, but I am in a good place right now and I’m progressing nicely,” he said.
“You go through the motions. In the beginning you’re in quite a bad place and at that time, my wife and my kids were massive for me and obviously still are.
“You’re feeling down, you’re home, you’ve had the surgery, you can’t sleep and all of these things, full of pain…basically my world has just been shut down all of a sudden.
“My wife and kids and also my team-mates, the manager, my physio – they have all been supportive.
“If I think back about the messages I’ve received, the support messages from all over the world and also from players I look up to, it has been very helpful and supportive. It has helped me in my rehab so far.
“At the moment, I am in a very good place.”