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I was part of media group who interviewed Virgil van Dijk – here’s my take on ‘out of context’ quotes

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Paul Gorst spoke to Virgil van Dijk when he discussed his future with Liverpool.

For once, it was Virgil van Dijk doing the questioning as the Liverpool captain strolled through Anfield’s mixed zone area on Wednesday night.

Sporting a beaming smile that can only come from the sort of performance that saw Chelsea decisively swatted aside 4-1, a laughing, jovial Van Dijk made his point known.

“Ah it’s the boys from the media! You don’t want to speak tonight, no?” he said as he walked off. It must be stressed Van Dijk was in good spirits as he walked through and his bantering was not delivered in a spiky tone or aggressive manner and he gave no indication he was generally unhappy with any of those, including us at the ECHO, who speak to him after virtually every Reds game.

Clearly, though, Van Dijk has felt compelled to offer a defence to comments given after the 5-1 win over Norwich in the FA Cup when he admitted he did not know if he would be a part of the Liverpool squad in the post-Jurgen Klopp era.

Asked if he saw himself at Anfield beyond his current terms, Van Dijk said: “That’s a big question. I don’t know. Eighteen months left? That’s correct. Good maths. I don’t know.

“The club will have a big job on their hands, that is well known. To replace not only the manager but the whole staff and there are so many things that will change. I’m very curious which direction that will go in but when that will be announced we will see our situation. I can’t say much about it.

“It will be the end of Jurgen Klopp’s era and I am still part of it – that’s why I don’t like to talk about it. That is my main focus. We will see at the end of the season, hopefully we will have the success we all dream of and by then probably there will be more clarification about what the club wants for the future and then we will see.”

An awful lot has been said, written and speculated about since that post-match chat with myself and a handful of other colleagues last week, from podcasters, television broadcasters and even former Premier League managers and players. Of course, there was plenty of chatter about it on social media too; some it reasoned debate and other bits of it less so.

But, as someone who was there, here’s how I view the current situation regarding the Liverpool captain.

First all, Van Dijk’s response came from a position of respect. The Liverpool captain always makes sure he is not seen as someone who is displaying arrogance but he never shirks giving his real opinions on questions, either.

As was written in this newsletter before Christmas after a back-and-forth with Roy Keane made headlines: “For the record there is no arrogance to Virgil van Dijk. As someone who has had the pleasure of chatting to him for five or 10 minutes after virtually every Liverpool game in the last four years or so, there are few footballers who are more down-to-earth than the Netherlands skipper.

“The No.4 is always more than happy to make time for those in the press who he recognises and knows aren’t out to catch him out, trip him up or spin his answers negatively. I’ve seen Van Dijk turn down requests from certain sections of the media for what will be his own personal reasons at Anfield but the Reds skipper has always made time for likes of the ECHO and our national colleagues with whom he is familiar.”

‘Faux humility’ was how it was put to me last week and there is an element of Van Dijk perhaps trying to play down his importance to the cause as captain of a side who tops the Premier League right now but it should also be stressed that the Reds skipper is unable to say anything else about his future while there is so much uncertainty around the club.

With no contract offer on the table, how else is Van Dijk expected to respond to questions of his future beyond the current terms that expire in 2025? The words obviously made headlines for those of us who gather news by speaking to the Liverpool players but the fallout has been something else entirely.

On Tuesday, Van Dijk told the podcast Men In Blazers that the words were “taken fully out of context” and that he remains committed to the cause at Liverpool. Few ever doubted his convictions around the club for the rest of this season or next but as someone who was there at the time, the interview was not taken out of context, not by those of us who spoke to him, at least.

The reason Van Dijk is always happy to chat so regularly is because he knows those of us who ask the questions aren’t out to sell him down the river for a cheap headline or two by spinning his answers. The player himself recognises this and the smiles and jokes he reserved for those at the AXA Centre on Tuesday for Jurgen Klopp’s pre-match Chelsea press conference suggested he bears no grudge with those of us who reported the comments in good faith.

“Speak to you on Wednesday then…” was the sign-off from one as they parted ways and the conversation ended before the response came from Van Dijk: “And next season!”

Point made. The storm might continue swirling in the teacup but Liverpool fans need not worry.

 

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