Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk “could be ruined” by his long-term injury, according to former Scotland international Frank McAvennie.
The Dutchman has missed most of the season after picking up a knee injury in the first Merseyside derby of the season, with Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford heavily criticised for the challenge which led to the injury.
Jurgen Klopp was furious with the tackle that injured Van Dijk, referencing “a very strange decision by one person” – Pickford – in November.
Liverpool, who are currently sixth in the Premier League table and out of the Champions League, have not been the same team since Van Dijk and Joe Gomez were ruled out and McAvennie insists “there’s no guarantee” he will come back the same player.
“They say one man doesn’t make a team but in this case that’s not true,” McAvennie told Football Insider.
“They bought Van Dijk for £80million and he sorted the team out straight away, he came in and all of a sudden they started winning all their games.
“It’s not a coincidence. So when he’s not there and the other two centre-halves are injured it’s so hard. Klopp can’t do anything to rectify that. You’ve just got to hope that Van Dijk is the same when he returns.
“These real long-term injuries can hurt a player, he could be ruined and we’ve heard no news for a while. There’s no guarantee he’ll be the same player when he comes back.”
Meanwhile, Van Dijk recently commented that he will no longer take things for granted as a result of his injury.
The Liverpool defender said: “In this period of being injured, it makes you think about loads of stuff, and appreciate even more what you’ve got.
“Obviously, it’s not easy, but the most important thing for me is to stay true to myself and work as hard as I can. So, if the time comes back and I’ll be back playing again, then I just have to enjoy every bit of it and try to be the best player I can be.
“I won’t take anything for granted. I just work, enjoy, have a smile on my face and try to stay fit. To be honest the information I have at the moment, it will be unlikely.
“Not that I wouldn’t let them go but because of the extent of the injuries. It’s not about talking which competition they can play in. As far as I know, and I am always open for positive surprises and they all of a sudden show up in training, nobody told me (they are nearly ready).
“We all hope they will be ready to start the pre-season with us. These are really serious injuries.”