Frank Lampard believes the loss of a player of Virgil van Dijk’s quality is likely to hit any team hard – but the Chelsea manager says it ‘remains to be seen’ just how much of an impact the injury will have on Liverpool’s season and the title race.
Van Dijk, 29, hobbled off the pitch after a horror challenge from Jordan Pickford in Saturday’s Merseyside derby at Goodison Park and subsequent scans showed the Netherlands international had torn his ACL and will be out for several months.
The news sent shockwaves across the Premier League, with Liverpool’s title defence now resting on the shoulders of Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and makeshift centre-half Fabinho.
Van Dijk was on the winning team and came away with a clean sheet as Liverpool won 2-0 at Stamford Bridge last month and Lampard is well aware of the Dutchman’s importance to the Merseyside giants.
Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s Champions League opener with Sevilla, he hailed Van Dijk as one of the ‘outstanding’ centre-backs on the planet before passing on his best wishes to the crocked Liverpool defender.
Asked about the significance of the injury at his press conference on Monday, the Chelsea boss said: ‘I think Virgil van Dijk is clearly an outstanding player.
‘He’s one of the outstanding defenders in world football and has been for the last two or three seasons.
‘The loss of a player of that quality and that size is going to affect any team because individuals and the quality of individual players like that make huge differences.
‘But we’re talking about Liverpool, we’re talking about a squad that’s been built, that are so strong, with a great manager so – of course nobody wants to lose a player like that and obviously I wish him my best when I see that sort of injury – but it remains to be seen how much it affects Liverpool.’
Van Dijk vowed to return stronger than ever in a defiant message on Instagram on Sunday evening.
‘This afternoon I met with a leading consultant to start the process of planning the finer details of my rehabilitation following the incident yesterday,’ he said.
‘I’m not fully focused on my recovery and will do everything I can to be back as quickly as possible.
‘Despite the obvious disappointment, I am a full believer that within difficulty lies opportunity and with God’s help I am going to make sure I return better, fitter and stronger than ever before.
‘In football as in life, I believe everything happens for a reason and it’s important to keep level-headed, whether going through the highs or the lows.
‘With the support of my wife, kids, family and everyone at Liverpool I am ready for the challenge ahead.
‘I would like to think everyone for the messages of support, it’s meant a huge amount to me and my family and I’ll now be doing everything possible to support my team-mates in anyway I can ahead of a big few weeks ahead as I take my own recovery day-by-day. I’ll be back’.
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