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Liverpool and Holland are on a collision course over whether Virgil van Dijk should participate in this summer’s European championships, with Dutch national coach Frank de Boer saying it is up to the player to decide if he is ready.
Van Dijk has not played since rupturing his cruciate ligament against Everton on October 17 and it looks increasingly likely he will find himself caught between the needs of his club and country when the tournament comes along.
De Boer says he has been encouraged by van Dijk’s recovery and is not ruling out the 29-year-old being included in his squad.
“I think he has to decide. It is his career,” de Boer told ESPN.“I can imagine that he is in a dilemma. Can it mean something for Oranje? I hope he has made giant steps in his rehabilitation.”
Such an optimistic tone is at odds with Liverpool’s more cautious approach. Having lost their £75 million defender for all but five games of their title defence, the last thing they want is for van Dijk to return prematurely and suffer a setback.
Klopp has been asked regularly about van Dijk’s chances of making the Euros over the past six months, and has made it clear he believes his most realistic target is pre-season training.
The Liverpool manager recently said van Dijk still has ‘a lot of steps’ to take before he is ready for top level football, suggesting that the images of the central defender on the training ground do not mean he is close to playing.
“Yes, he is running. Hendo (Jordan Henderson) is running, (Joe Gomez) is running, Joel (Matip) is running. That’s all good; imagine they wouldn’t be able to run in the moment, that would be really bad,” said Klopp on April 30.
“They are running and in rehab. It always starts with straight-line running. I’m not sure if you saw Virg running a lot of curves or just straight, so there are a lot of things to come. You go through a lot of steps until you are finally ready to join team training, especially with long-term injuries - there are a lot of steps to go and they are all quite a way from that.
“It means nobody told me, ‘Fasten your seatbelt, make yourself ready, the boys will be in team training next week.' No, nothing changed really, but they are in a good way.”