Virgil van Dijk has warned Harry Maguire that his new status as the world’s most expensive defender will increase the weight on his shoulders but urged Manchester United’s new signing to do his talking on the pitch.
Van Dijk’s £75m move from Southampton last January set a benchmark for defensive players until Maguire’s £80m switch to Old Trafford was confirmed five days before the start of the new Premier League season. The 26-year-old is expected to feature in Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s squad for the trip to Chelsea on Sunday and Van Dijk – who was voted as PFA Player of the Year last season as he helped Jürgen Klopp’s side to win the Champions League – insists he bears no grudges after being overtaken by the England defender.
“Good luck to him,” he said. “I can’t say anything about that because there was always going to be a time when it was going to change. That’s the market. He doesn’t have any influence on that but I wish him well. The price comes with pressure but it doesn’t change too much because you always have pressure at big clubs like Man United. But I wish him well.”
Asked how he coped with the pressure of such a high price tag, Van Dijk said: “Just focus on doing what you love to do and play your best game. Get your qualities out of the pitch, enjoy your game and don’t think about the other things. It is not easy to completely shut off all the pressure. Personally, I like to put things in perspective. Quite a lot of things are more important than playing football and what we do, we are blessed. We can do what we love to do and also to play for Liverpool – they are such a big club. You need to enjoy it but the pressure will always be there.”
Having missed out on the Premier League title last season by one point to Manchester City, next year marks the 30th anniversary of Liverpool’s last championship under Kenny Dalglish in 1990. Yet while Van Dijk admitted the experience of beating Tottenham in the Champions League final has boosted the confidence of Klopp’s side, he acknowledged that it will count for nothing when the new season begins at home to the newly promoted Norwich on Friday night.
“We have spoken about a lot of things, but the main thing is that we are starting over,” he said. “Last year was last year. Everybody was still enjoying having won the Champions League when we came back, but straight away it was down to playing again, and starting from scratch. Well, not completely from scratch, but it was time to start to get back to work and making sure he got the most from us.
“We want to compete in all competitions. It is something we aim for. We won the Champions League last year but if you look at the other competitions we played we did not do too great. We are going to give it a go and try to get as far as possible in all of the competitions and everybody starting each competition will be trying their hardest.”
Van Dijk added: “The traditional top six all want to win the Premier League and so do we. Last year we were close and we are going to try again.”