Liverpool star Van Dijk ‘blames’ himself but doubles down on ‘personal attack’ from Netherlands legend

Netherlands defender Virgil van Dijk looks intensely as he's interviewed Credit: Alamy
Netherlands defender Virgil van Dijk looks intensely as he's interviewed Credit: Alamy

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk feels like the criticism he faced from Netherlands legend Marco van Basten was “an attack on me as a person”.

The Dutch legend hit out at Van Dijk for his role in Enner Valencia’s equalising goal as Netherlands struggled to a 1-1 draw against Ecuador in their second World Cup match.

Netherlands are on four points after beating Senegal 2-0 in their World Cup opener and will secure qualification with a point against hosts Qatar.

However, their performances have come in for criticism and Van Basten took a swipe at Van Dijk’s defending against Ecuador.

“Van Dijk is just waiting and watching him shoot,” Van Basten told NOS. “What is he looking at? He needs to be on top of him! He just lets him shoot!”

And, reflecting on his immediate to Van Basten’s comments in an interview with Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad (via Sport Witness), Van Dijk regrets handling the criticism the way he did.

“I don’t think he is really positive, so what should I do with it? I now mainly blame myself, actually,” Van Dijk said.

“I have to be above that. And then I come back to the hotel after the game and then I think: that is (his reaction) of course already on AD. Fine, that’s how it works. And apart from that: I can handle criticism very well. When you play at the top, you are constantly criticised when things go a little less..”

But he doubled down on his criticism of Van Basten with the Dutch legend not afraid of calling out Van Dijk in the past.

Van Dijk added: “It also felt a bit like an attack on me as a person, on my role as a leader. I thought that at such a moment, so shortly after the game, well… that just triggered me. I’m only human.

“That Van Basten says that I should have put more pressure on the ball with that goal against, that I did too little? Fine. Those are football moments. They must also be critical. I know very well when I make a mistake, or when I can do something better.”

On the difference between playing for Liverpool and playing for the Netherlands, Van Dijk continued: “But that also has to do with our way of playing. I am the middle [of back 3] with Oranje. In the build-up, the left and right centre-backs are perhaps even more important. And rightly so: Nathan Aké is left-footed, Jurriën Timber is also very good on the ball,” he said.

“In my role I often have the striker in front of me, and I am the lock on the door. I feel very comfortable with that, I really do, but it is a slightly different role.

“No [formation not an issue], not at all. Because we have played very well in this formation in the past 10 games or so. In possession of the ball, in putting pressure: that often went very well, against not the lowest countries. We need to get back to that level – and fast.”

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