Liverpool face the prospect of being without Virgil van Dijk for several months after it was confirmed their key defender requires knee surgery – but they are reluctant to rule him out for the season.
News of anterior cruciate ligament damage to the 29-year-old, sustained in a controversial high challenge by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in Saturday’s 2-2 Merseyside derby draw, is the nightmare scenario for the Reds.
“Following surgery, Van Dijk will begin a rehabilitation programme with the club’s medical team to enable him to reach full fitness as soon as possible,” a club statement said.
Not only does the injury rob them of one of their most influential players for the majority of their Premier League title defence, but also leaves Liverpool with just two senior centre-backs in Joel Matip, who has been plagued by niggling injuries himself, and Joe Gomez.
Jurgen Klopp opted not to replace Dejan Lovren when he left for Zenit St Petersburg in the summer and was content to gamble on utilising midfielder Fabinho as cover.
The damage suffered in his clash with Pickford, for which the Everton goalkeeper escaped punishment due to VAR official David Coote overlooking the tackle after ruling on the Holland captain’s offside in the build-up, means Van Dijk will have to have an operation.
However, club sources are unwilling to write off his season just yet, considering the player’s previously excellent fitness record, and remain hopeful he can still play a part in the campaign at some point.
Van Dijk released a statement on Sunday night in which he vowed to come back stronger than ever.
“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 posted on Twitter.
“I’m now fully focused on my recovery and will do everything I can to be back as quickly as possible.
“Despite the obvious disappointment I’m a firm believer that within difficulty lies opportunity and with God’s help I’m 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 try and keep level headed whether going through the highs or the lows. With the support of my wife, kids, family and everyone at Liverpool, I’m ready for the challenge ahead.
“I’d like to thank 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 any way I can ahead of a big few weeks ahead as I take my own recovery day by day. I’ll be back.”