Football

Virgil van Dijk’s comeback this season will be a miracle: Klopp

Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk will need a miracle to play any part in the club's English Premier League title defence this season, manager Juergen Klopp said yesterday.

The Dutch defender, 29, was injured against Everton last October, needing knee surgery after goalkeeper Jordan Pickford's reckless challenge.

British media suggested this week he may return in April.

"No doctor told me there's a chance for Virgil to play again this season. I don't want to say it's impossible but it's not likely," Klopp said ahead of their league game against Brighton & Hove Albion tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

"If there is no space (in the squad), we have to make a decision. If he's on the list, it's only because we hope for a miracle.

"I think we have space for Virgil on the Champions League (squad) list. If we have space, then Virgil will be on the list."

Liverpool brought in defensive reinforcements on transfer deadline day, as they were hit with more bad news that centre-back Joel Matip was also out for the season with an ankle ligament injury.

The EPL champions signed centre-backs Ben Davies from Championship outfit Preston North End and Ozan Kabak on loan from German side Schalke.

The Reds reportedly paid Preston just £500,000 (S$912,000) upfront for Davies, 25, with about £1.1m in add-ons.

The loan deal for Kabak, 20, comes with an option to purchase, after Klopp had received a glowing reference on the Turkey international from former Schalke coach and his close friend David Wagner.

"Dave always said he will be a future captain of a team. He is a proper personality," said Klopp.

"When you go abroad in that young age, to another country and play for other clubs, he could have played in Turkey in each club he wants. Goes then to Stuttgart, goes then to Schalke.

"He could have gone anywhere but he wanted to make football steps and we are a proper football step for him.

"He wants to learn but he can deliver already."

On Davies, Klopp said: "We were looking in each league and then I saw Ben and was really interested ... He's a really competitive player who is used to playing a lot of games."

But Klopp will give the duo time to bed in, saying: "If they had to start together tomorrow, that wouldn't be too cool. I think we will give them a few more days."

Having comfortably won the title last season, Liverpool lie third with 40 points from 21 games, four behind Manchester City who have a game in hand.

They are also scheduled to face RB Leipzig in the last 16 of the Champions League this month, although Germany's new Covid-19 restrictions on travellers from the UK have cast doubt over the first leg at the Red Bull Arena on Feb 16. - REUTERS

Football