Virgil van Dijk
Virgil van Dijk (born 8 July 1991) is a Dutch professional footballer who plays as a centre back for Premier League club Liverpool and the Dutch national team.
After beginning his career with Groningen, he moved to Celtic in 2013, where he won the Scottish Premiership and was named in the PFA Scotland Team of the Year in both of his seasons, also winning the Scottish League Cup in the latter. In September 2015, he joined Southampton. He joined Liverpool in January 2018.
Van Dijk made his international debut for the Netherlands in 2015.
Van Dijk was born in Breda to a Dutch father and Surinamese mother. He started his career with Willem II before transferring to Groningen in 2010 on a free transfer after just one season. He made his professional debut for Groningen coming on as a 72nd-minute substitute for Petter Andersson during the 4–2 victory against ADO Den Haag on 1 May 2011. During the 2011–12 season, Van Dijk made 23 league appearances for the Eredivisie team, scoring his first professional goal during the 6–0 victory against Feyenoord on 30 October 2011. He scored his second professional goal for Groningen on 22 January 2012 against Heracles Almelo in a 2–1 victory before scoring again the following week during a 4–1 defeat to FC Twente. Van Dijk scored his first goal of the 2012–13 season on 7 October 2012 during a 2–2 draw with Feyenoord. Van Dijk scored again, against Feyenoord in the return fixture on 23 December 2012 during a 2–1 defeat.
Celtic 2013–14 season
On 21 June 2013, Van Dijk signed with Celtic for a fee of around £2.6 million, on a four-year deal including a 10% selling-on fee for Groningen. He made his debut on 17 August, replacing Efe Ambrose for the final 13 minutes of a 2–0 Scottish Premiership win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie Stadium. A week later, he made his first start, in a 2–2 draw with Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Celtic Park. On 9 November, Van Dijk scored his first Celtic goals, heading one in each half of a 4–1 win against Ross County. After a solo run, he scored within five minutes the only goal of a victory over St Johnstone on 26 December.
Van Dijk scored again on 26 January 2014, in a 4–0 win versus Hibernian for Celtic’s 11th consecutive league win. On 25 February, he was sent off after 13 minutes of an eventual 2–1 loss at Aberdeen, for a professional foul on Peter Pawlett; it was Celtic’s first defeat of the season. With Celtic having already won the league, Van Dijk netted again on 7 May to put his team 3–1 up away to St Johnstone, in an eventual 3–3 draw. He was one of three Celtic players named in the PFA Scotland Team of the Year.
On 22 July 2014, Van Dijk and Teemu Pukki each scored twice in a 4–0 home win over KR in a UEFA Champions League qualifier, putting their team into the next round 5–0 on aggregate. His first goal of the Premiership season came on 9 November, finishing from Stefan Johansen’s last-minute corner for a 2–1 win at Aberdeen. Three weeks later, Van Dijk scored the first and last goals of Celtic’s 4–0 win versus Heart of Midlothian in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup. Four days after that, his sixth goal of the season was enough for victory in a home match against Glasgow neighbours Partick Thistle.
Van Dijk was again on target on 21 January 2015, opening a 4–0 home win over Motherwell. On 26 February, he was sent off in the 36th minute against Inter Milan for a foul on Mauro Icardi, as Celtic lost 1–0 on the night, 4–3 on aggregate in the last 32 of the UEFA Europa League. He was again sent off on 8 March in the Cup quarter-final away to Dundee United at Tannadice Park, receiving a red card after eleven minutes for a confrontation with Calum Butcher. His suspension for the following week’s Scottish League Cup Final was overturned on appeal, as was that of Paul Paton, who was sent off when mistaken for Butcher. Van Dijk played the full 90 minutes of the final at Hampden Park, which Celtic won 2–0. On 18 March, Celtic’s third consecutive match against Dundee United, Van Dijk scored in the last minute to confirm a 4–0 win in a Cup replay.
On 19 April, Celtic contested the Cup semi-final against Inverness at Hampden, and Van Dijk opened the scoring with a free kick. After the dismissal of goalkeeper Craig Gordon, Celtic fell 3–2, ending their chance of a treble. Three days later, again from a free kick, he confirmed a 2–1 win away to Dundee. His team again won the league, and Van Dijk was included in the league’s Team of the Season for the second consecutive campaign.
Van Dijk was reportedly “considering his future” in Glasgow after Celtic were knocked out of the 2015–16 UEFA Champions League in the qualifying rounds to Malmö of Sweden.
On 1 September 2015, Van Dijk signed a five-year contract with Premier League club Southampton for a reported £13 million transfer fee. He made his debut for Southampton on 12 September in a 0–0 draw against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns. Two weeks later, Van Dijk marked his third Premier League appearance with his first goal for the club, which came in the form of a header in the 11th minute to put Southampton in front, following a set-piece from James Ward-Prowse in a 3–1 home win over Swansea City.
On 7 May 2016, Van Dijk signed a new six-year contract with the Saints. On 22 January 2017, he was named team captain of Southampton, after the departure of José Fonte. On the same day, he suffered an ankle injury against Leicester City. This ruled him out of the 2017 EFL Cup Final, which Southampton lost to Manchester United at Wembley Stadium.
After a successful 2016–17 season at Southampton, Van Dijk was subject to interest from Liverpool, who apologised to Southampton for an illegal approach for the player after having reportedly made clear his interest in a move to Liverpool. On 7 August 2017, Van Dijk handed in a transfer request to Southampton and released a statement along with it, emphasising his wish to join a different club in the transfer window.
Despite this, Van Dijk remained with Southampton for the start of the 2017–18 season and made his first appearance since being injured in January, coming on as a late substitute in a 1–0 victory at Crystal Palace on 26 September. He made what turned out to be his final appearance for Southampton on 13 December 2017, in a 4–1 home defeat to Leicester. It was also his last appearance in any of Southampton’s match day squads, as he was omitted from the squad for the rest of his tenure at the club in light of speculation surrounding his future.
On 27 December 2017, it was announced that Van Dijk would join Liverpool when the winter transfer window opened on 1 January 2018[ for a reported fee of £75 million. Former club Celtic would receive 10% of Van Dijk’s transfer fee, due to a sell-on clause placed in his Southampton contract. Southampton claimed the undisclosed transfer fee would constitute a world record fee in football for a defender.
He made his debut for Liverpool on 6 January in the third round of the FA Cup and scored the winning goal with a late header in a 2–1 victory against local rivals Everton. In doing so, he became the first player since Bill White in 1901 to score on his debut in the Merseyside derby.
Style of play
Van Dijk is a right-footed centre back, who usually features on the left-hand side of central defence, although he can also play as a right-sided centre back.
Neil McGuinness, senior scout at Celtic when Van Dijk was signed, called him “everything you would want if you could create a profile of the ideal central defender”, praising him as a “very smooth ball-playing defender” who possesses aerial prowess, skills from dead ball situations, and “strong leadership qualities”, while commenting that since his move to England, he is “more tactically aware now […] his anticipation and timing has improved and he is a lot more of an all-rounder”. McGuinness believes Van Dijk’s “biggest problem” is that he “can switch off when the game is comfortable.