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The major change that put Virgil van Dijk on the road to Liverpool

The major change that put Virgil van Dijk on the road to Liverpool

A change in approach from the Dutch defender has put him on the path to becoming one of the world's best centre-backs

By Paul Gorst

09:51, 24 OCT 2018

An essential change in Virgil van Dijk's professionalism has put him on the road to becoming one of the planet's elite centre-backs at Liverpool, according to his former Celtic boss Ronny Deila.

Deila coached Van Dijk for a season during their time together in Scotland and helped the Dutch defender earn a move to the Premier League after a Scottish Premiership and League Cup double in 2015.

The Norwegian manager said Van Dijk's potential was apparent from an early stage at Celtic Park but said the Liverpool star needed to improve in training in order to truly become one of the best around.

Van Dijk moved to Anfield from Southampton in January for £75million to become the world's most expensive defender, and the Netherlands captain has been a key factor behind a defence that has conceded just three goals in nine Premier League games so far this season.

Speaking on A Celtic State of Mind podcast, Deila explained how a change in approach to his daily routine helped Van Dijk develop into one of Europe's finest centre-halves.

Deila said: "I think he was not fit enough to be at the highest level.

"He has unbelievable skills and potential but he needed to be better to train every day, take care of himself better and I think he progressed a lot in that year to be more conscious about how he lives his life after football and also how he trains.

"He was so good after this period.He wanted to go away, he wanted to make the next step and I was very hard on him. I said 'you shouldn't go to Sunderland, Southampton or whatever, you should go to the biggest club because you have the potential to be there'

"But he didn't believe me at the time. But one year in Southampton and he was already there. He can maybe be the best central defender in the world. You can see the potential he has."

Within six months of Van Dijk's arrival, Liverpool were taking part in the Champions League final, with his signing proving to be the catalyst for a huge upturn in fortunes at the back for Jurgen Klopp's side.

And Deila thinks the change in outlook from the 27-year-old has been the biggest reason behind Van Dijk's rise.

"I have some much respect and people don't understand how hard it is playing 60 games a year and some of them play national team," added Deila.

"You can get up to 75 matches a year. You can't afford to don't think about what you do after the pitch. The players that can do that are really good taking care of themselves."

From the Liverpool Echo

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