Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has warned fans that he still has a long way to go in his recovery from a knee injury before he will be back to his best.
The Dutchman played the full 90 minutes of Saturday's 3-0 win over Norwich, which was his first competitive appearance since rupturing his cruciate ligament in a collision with Everton's Jordan Pickford all the way back in October 2020.
Having Van Dijk back, as well as both Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, obviously came as an enormous boost for Liverpool, and the 30-year-old confessed he was overcome with emotion at being able to get back into the action.
"The first one was very emotional and very tough for many reasons,” he said (via The Guardian). “You visualise the game so many times in your head before you actually play so, as I said to the club, I was not tired because of the game, I was tired because of everything around it.
"It was sort of like a hurdle. I had to get over that, I felt, then it will come again. So that is what happened in my point of view. I kept training well and felt confident in my knee. What is very important is that I kept my fitness up and we kept a clean sheet [against Norwich].”
Despite looking solid against Norwich and clearly being able to play a full 90 minutes again, Van Dijk stressed that he will need plenty of time to rediscover his groove and recapture the form that steered Liverpool to Premier League glory in 2020.
“It is not the closing of a chapter,” he said. “It is still getting there. I wanted to be out there, I wanted to be playing from the first time because I feel I need it and it will improve me.
"My point of view, knowing my own body, [is that] obviously there are plenty of things to improve but I am not a robot. I cannot be back to 100% immediately.
“It has been a tough road but I am just happy to be out of there again. The journey me and Joe Gomez have had is that if you experience it you understand what it is. It is not easy to be out. I am proud of myself and proud of the people who helped me, like my wife and kids.”
Manager Jurgen Klopp will be keen to avoid overworking Van Dijk or any of his returning defenders. It was Joel Matip who partnered him against Norwich, but Saturday's meeting with Burnley could be a chance for Gomez and new signing Ibrahima Konate to impress.