Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has revealed how close he came to calling time on his football career after suffering a life-threatening illness eight years ago.
The Dutchman is regarded as one of the finest defenders in the world since moving to Anfield from Southampton in a record £75million in January of last year.
Those performances saw him clinched the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award, but it could have been so different for the 27-year-old centre-back.
Back in 2011, Van Dijk was struck down by severe peritonitis during his time playing at Groningen back home in Holland.
And in an interview with The Guardian , the Anfield hero has opened up on the illness which is an infection of the inner lining of the stomach.
“It wasn’t simple,” he said. “It was a period that I looked after myself for the first time in my life. I couldn’t cook.
“I lived with another player and if you’re that young you think it’s easy. We just had training. We’re not going to try and cook. We’re going somewhere to eat.
“After I ate so much rubbish, the appendix was affected. I kept eating bad things. The appendix burst, and it was a very tough time.
“I learned so much about food and that we should value every situation we are in.
“When something like that happens you think a lot and today I appreciate everything we’ve got. I know that life is much more than football.
“We have family and it’s all about being happy and healthy.”