Virgil van Dijk has returned to first team action for Liverpool after nine months out but with the new season just weeks away Jamie Carragher has urged the Reds against rushing the centre-half back
Van Dijk nutmegs Gomez as Liverpool train in Austria
Jamie Carragher insists Virgil van Dijk’s workload must be managed as he returns to first team action with Liverpool.
The centre-half has been out injured since October but made his comeback in a pre-season loss to Hertha Berlin.
The Dutchman’s nine-month absence was telling last term as the Reds failed to mount a meaningful defence of their Premier League title.
Van Dijk’s arrival at Anfield coincided with them challenging for honours and he is a key figure.
Now seen by many as the finest centre-half on the planet but Carragher insists his return does not mean Liverpool will simply return to the summit of English football.
The temptation will be to throw Van Dijk in for Liverpool’s season opener away at Norwich.
But the former Red hopes they take a long-term view to his return.
Carragher said: “I think we have to be careful and I think Jurgen Klopp will be. I don’t think we should expect that Van Dijk comes back into Liverpool and Liverpool are going to automatically win the league again this season.
“He’s had a really serious injury and he’s got to make sure he is not rushed back.
“If he’s back to his best he is the best central defender in world football and that’s what Liverpool will want over the next five or six years, not the next five or six weeks.
“If he doesn’t make the first game of the season it’s not the end of the world, it is about making sure Virgil van Dijk is 100 per cent right so he’s in a position where he can have the next five or six years at Liverpool at a top level.
“It may be a gentle start with Virgil until we see him when he is 100 percent right, but if that could be on that first game of the season and he can play the next few games I think everyone would be delighted.”
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Liverpool have back-to-back games coming up against Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna which may well be used to further Van Dijk’s return.
Joe Gomez also spent large parts of last term on the treatment table after picking up an injury whilst with England.
He too has returned recently but will face stern competition for his first team spot this term.
Jurgen Klopp has bolstered his backline options by spending over £30m on Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig.