The day Jordan Pickford recklessly slammed into Virgil van Dijk all of us held our breaths.
We were convinced Pickford knew what he was doing.
The impact of that injury put an end to van Dijk’s season and dented hopes of millions of Liverpool fans around the globe. However, let bygones be bygones.
All of us desperately followed van Dijk's social handles for updates on his health.
We all had notifications turned on to track his progress, almost as crazy as we get following airplanes during the transfer window.
Constant updates on Instagram about his surgery, rehabilitation and then road to recovery made us happier.
He has now joined the team for pre-season camp in Austria and looks raring to go.
The time we’ve highly anticipated is here. Virgil is back, looking like a Rolls-Royce waiting to hit the road.
But there is something all of us are dreading to speak about, will Virgil be the same player he was before he got injured?
Let’s be honest, such horrific injuries and such a long period of time on the sidelines can impact players in multiple ways.
In the pre-season training photos it was visible that he has been operated on both his ACL and MCL.
This could mean that the injury was way more grave than we first thought.
Such injuries have physical and mental repercussions on players. But if there is a player who can prove that he is unaffected and back to his best, its Virgil van Dijk.
In the training videos that we’ve seen so far, he is moving quite well and looks good.
He seems to be training well, running at almost full speed and smiling around camp.
But the truth will come out only when he has to put into a solid tackle or take a strong striker on one-v-one.
Many argue that his positional play is exceptional and because of which he will not have to put in a tackle, but the fact is, as a central defender, he will certainly need to push his weight around (literally) and get back to his tackling best.
Given that our opening few fixtures are kind, it might be the confidence booster that he needs.
As fans, we need to be aware that the media is going to be keeping an eye on him like a hawk.
One wrong step and the media is going to be all over him.
Liverpool supporters need to drown the negative press out and get behind him.
Supporters need to ensure that his confidence is back to its best and he once again is the most feared defender in Europe.
There are multiple scenarios where players with massive injuries have gotten back to their playing best like Roy Keane who went on to win the treble in 1999, Alan Shearer - went on to be the highest scorer in premier league history, Xavi who ruptured his ACL in the 2005-06 season and still went on to be one of Spain’s and Barcelona’s most decorated midfield players.
Virgil is definitely in this bracket of the world’s best players.
Keeping that in mind, we are hopeful that van Dijk is back to his ‘silky-smooth’ best, but if I can be cautious, only time will tell us the truth. Until then, we should hold our horses and hope for the best!
One thing is for certain, when Liverpool line-up and van Dijk is a part of the starting XI, I am going to be yelling on the top of my voice, "He's a centre-half, he's a number four. Watch him defend, and we watch him score, He'll pass the ball, calm as you like, He's Virgil van Dijk, he's Virgil van Dijk."
See you soon, big Virg!