Fabinho has admitted it is pointless even THINKING about replacing Virgil van Dijk.
“Of course, I am not Virgil – he is the best defender is the world right now,” he said with only the ghost of a smile flashing briefly across his implacable features.
The Brazilian was speaking after Liverpool’s important Champions League victory over Ajax, where he was charged with the impossible task of filling the gaping hole in the heart of the Champions’ defence, left by the injury to their talisman.
Impossible maybe, but Fabinho did a decent impression nonetheless, producing a man of the match display – and a vital goal-line clearance – to ensure the Reds got off to a winning start in the competition.
While he brushed away any question of being able to match his teammate – who was voted in the top three players in the world – the Samba star did reveal that manager Jurgen Klopp has demanded that he does at least copy van Dijk in one vital area: Leadership.
It is a challenge he relishes.
“The manager said to me I have to talk more to try and organise the team. Sometimes I have to get the second balls and be ready to press. In this role, I must try to do my best.
“When I knew Virgil was out for a long time I was shocked because first of all, he is the best defender in the world right now.
“But most of all, he is a leader in the team and in the dressing room.
“He also makes sure the mood is good – a good atmosphere – and we will miss this. But I have got to do a little of what Virgil always does. I must try to organise the team. To talk to the team and try to be a leader.
“Tactically, at centre back, I have to always be ready for the long balls.
“But I will do my best and it was very important for me and the team to keep a clean sheet here.”
It is a devastating blow nonetheless, with keeper Adrian, who has been given the similarly impossible job of replacing Allison, summing up the shock – and the defiance – in the squad when he said:
“We are going to miss Virgil for this season. It is a big loss for us but it is how we react. We have good players who play in this position with Fabinho and Joe. We have a great squad.”
Van Dijk himself showed he is still ready to lift Liverpool spirits with a message to the entire squad before they played in Amsterdam.
But as his close friend Gini Wijnaldum explained after the win, there won’t be any discussions with the towering defender about football in the first few months of his recovery, no matter how the season is going.
“Virgil sent a message, he wished us good luck in the group chat on what’s app, he wished everyone well,” he explained.
“But for me, I don’t think it is the right time to speak with Virgil about football – because football at this time is not the most important thing.
I think for him and for me when we speak together the most important thing is his rehab and those things. So when I speak to him it is more about life than about football.
“It might change in a few months because then he will be far into his rehab, and can talk about the games.
“But for now it is definitely not the right time to speak about football with Virgil.”
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