Virgil van Dijk defended himself after receiving a cutting critique from a pair of Dutch football legends about his leadership as the Netherlands captain.
The Liverpool defender and his team experienced a difficult start to EURO 2024 qualifiers. As captain, Van Dijk led the Netherlands to a 4-0 battering at the hands of France on Friday night.
A 3-0 win over Gibraltar put Oranje back on the right track – but was far from a positive showing.
Following the loss to France, Van Dijk received some damning criticism from Marco van Basten. Speaking on Ziggo Sport, the three-time Ballon d’Or winner blasted his country’s current skipper.
“He makes noise, but he doesn’t say anything,” said Van Basten, via Mail Sport. “He’s not clear. A good captain thinks aloud and makes it clear what’s going on. He stays in between and creates chaos – that is what you, as a captain, must prevent.
“In the dressing room, he is good, football tactically and technically not.”
Fellow EURO 1988 winner Ruud Gullit was similarly cutting.
“It’s walking backward,” said the Dutchman. “Van Dijk was selected for the World team of the year. He thinks he’s better than the rest.
“We see things, then I think, “you are captain, you have to solve this”. But he’s just commenting a little on what’s in front of him. I don’t know if he’s doing it, but it doesn’t look like he’s speaking. He plays so safe.
“Come on now, you’re so big and so good. It is a positive criticism! Isn’t he the best? Then show it.”
The current Oranje star responded in a post-match interview.
Virgil van Dijk on criticism: “people make mistakes”
Addressing the team criticism on Ziggo Sport, Van Dijk said: “It is clear that we played badly. I am one of the experienced guys, so it is completely justified.”
However, the Dutchman defended himself over Van Basten and Gullit’s comments.
Everyone is allowed to have their own opinion these days,” he said, via Voetbal International. “Did I set the bar unrealistically high? How is that possible? It was never perfect – constant is the right word.
“We’ve had a lot of success with the team. Football players, they know that better than anyone, have peaks and valleys. It’s quite normal that you can’t always play consistently. That you have a phase as a club or player where you are looking for your level.
“It is normal that people make mistakes,” added van Dijk. “That is part of football, and it is very human. Regardless of who gets a platform to say whatever, so that things are made big.”
Finally, Virgil van Dijk added some self-reflection in light of his compatriots’ scathing comments.
“These are difficult times [at Liverpool], also with ups and downs. I am very positive about the future and try to play my best game every time. We are not robots, let’s not forget that. Maybe sometimes people forget that.”
With the Netherlands’ international break over, Van Dijk now returns to prepare for club action.
And he has quite the test awaiting him: Liverpool travel to Man City on 1 April for a huge Premier League showdown. If the Reds can snatch a win at the Etihad, their top-four hopes would be well and truly alive once more.
Featured image credit: Getty