Netherlands boss De Boer will not put pressure on Van Dijk to return for Euro 2020

By Sports Desk March 23, 2021

Netherlands boss Frank de Boer accepts it is unlikely Virgil van Dijk will return to action before next season and will not put pressure on the defender to be fit in time for Euro 2020.

Liverpool centre-back Van Dijk has been sidelined since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in October's Merseyside derby against Everton.

The 29-year-old returned to individual training last month, but Klopp reiterated last week he does not expect him to play any part at this year's rescheduled European Championship finals.

But De Boer, who was appointed as Ronald Koeman's successor in September, says the final decision will be made by the player himself closer to the tournament.

"Anything he can contribute to Liverpool and possibly us would be a bonus," De Boer said at a news conference on Tuesday.

"I'm not counting on it at the moment. But if it were to happen, it would be fantastic for the squad. We're going to see. I'm not putting any pressure on him at all. 

"He has to do it himself and has to trust himself. The choice is with him. When the moment comes and we know how he is doing, you go with him to see what he can do.

"Then I have to make a decision about it. We let him take it easy now and continue his recovery work. Things are going well now. Whether that will be enough, we do not yet know.

"He is on the field. There can be setbacks. And setbacks can mean that he cannot play games for Liverpool. Then I can imagine them saying, 'focus on next season'."

The Netherlands start their World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign with a trip to Turkey on Wednesday, looking to extend a five-game unbeaten run after ending 2020 on a relative high.

De Boer controversially chose to leave in-form Wolfsburg striker Wout Weghorst out of his squad for the match with Turkey, as well as the qualifiers against Latvia and Gibraltar.

Weghorst has scored 17 Bundesliga goals this season, placing him behind only Andre Silva, Erling Haaland (both 21 goals) and Robert Lewandowski (25) in the scoring charts.

But De Boer has defended his decision to omit the 28-year-old and instead put his faith in Sevilla striker Luuk de Jong, who has four goals in 25 LaLiga outings in 2020-21.

"I had to choose between Luuk and Wout. At the moment I choose Luuk," he said. "I understand very well that it is a very delicate issue - it is also a very difficult issue. 

"Certainly for Wout, but also certainly for me. Because Wout has done just fantastic, but Luuk has also done very well with the Dutch national team. 

"We are in a very short period, then you consider things and I chose Luuk at that moment.

"I also called Wout and that was terribly difficult. He was certainly not happy, let that be clear. That is also normal, but at least he made it as difficult as possible for me. 

"He knocks terribly hard on the door, let that be clear. There are already a few holes in it. It was by far my most difficult decision, but at the moment I choose other players. Some are a bit more multifunctional, for example."

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    Jurgen Klopp revealed Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez have looked "really good" in pre-season training with Liverpool, though made clear the need for patience over the returning duo.

    Van Dijk and fellow centre-back Gomez were long-term absentees during the Reds' unsuccessful title defence in the 2020-21 campaign, making a combined total of just 12 Premier League appearances.

    Both are closing in on a comeback but Klopp insisted after the 1-0 friendly win over Mainz on Friday that neither are likely to feature in the next fixture, which sees Liverpool take on Hertha Berlin.

    Asked by the club's official website if the defenders could play next Thursday, he replied: "Yeah, it would still be a surprise, unfortunately. But they look really good.

    "Look, I think, they do everything, they play football, we keep them in training, we do the things we can do, they don't do too much and stuff like this.

    "We just have to be patient – we prepare for a full season, not for a pre-season game. I will not risk it for a game here, so we have to see.

    "We have a lot of games still coming, pre-season games, but I don't see them being involved for the next one."

    Liverpool recorded a first win during pre-season action thanks to a late own goal against Mainz, Luca Kilian turning Owen Beck's cross into the net in the 86th minute.

    Klopp had included a host of first-team regulars in his starting XI, which saw Harvey Elliott utilised in a midfield role, before a much younger line-up were introduced after half-time.

    A number of the squad remain absent following their exertions at Euro 2020 and the Copa America, though Scotland captain Andy Robertson has joined up with his team-mates in Austria.

    "I am happy about a lot of situations I saw," the Liverpool boss said of the game against Mainz.

    "I saw in the first half some really good football where we came through, we passed, we passed the ball quite quickly, quick enough against a good, organised side, a deep-defending side and this kind of stuff. It was far away from being perfect, but it is absolutely okay.

    "Second half I saw the boys, the kids, fought for a result and they got it. They forced it and I am happy about that."

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