The Premier League returned last weekend in enthralling fashion.

From a seven-goal spectacle at Anfield to another London derby win for Arsenal, there was excitement to behold almost everywhere you looked (unless you were looking for Harry Kane in the Everton penalty area, where he touched the ball twice).

We saw Mohamed Salah set a new Premier League record, a rotten moment for Virgil van Dijk and a lousy start to life back in the big time for the three promoted clubs - although they do have a reason not to be too worried.

By now, you're probably wondering why Steven Fletcher was in the headline. Fear not, dear reader: like a Premier League referee spotting that mysterious VAR screen on the touchline, you'll soon see there's a reason for everything.

Read on for some of the quirkiest facts from the first weekend of the 2020-21 season...

KEEP THE FAITH, NEW BOYS

Leeds United lost 4-3 to champions Liverpool in an absolute belter at Anfield, while Fulham and West Brom each suffered rather more one-sided 3-0 defeats to Arsenal and Leicester City.

Those results mean this is the first season since 2013-14 in which the three promoted sides all lost their opening Premier League matches.

There's no need to fret just yet, though. Of those teams seven years ago - Crystal Palace, Hull City and Cardiff City - only Cardiff were relegated at the end of the season. Palace finished as high as 11th.

In case you wondered, no season has ever seen all three promoted sides win on matchday one in the Premier League.

 

PEN-FEST

Salah and Jamie Vardy each scored two penalties over a weekend featuring just five games. There was only one instance of a player scoring twice from the spot in a single match in last season's 380 Premier League games (Troy Deeney against Newcastle United).

In total, 54 players have scored two penalties in a match in Premier League history; nobody has ever managed three.

Only four players have suffered the ignominy of missing two spot-kicks in a single game: Mark Draper against Newcastle in August 1994, Juan Pablo Angel against Fulham in February 2005, Darren Bent versus Tottenham in April 2010, and Saido Berahino against Watford in April 2016.

 

VAN DIJK CHASING STONES 'RECORD'

Van Dijk's generous but perplexing decision to cushion the ball down and set up Patrick Bamford to score means he has now made two errors leading directly to goals in his past four league games. He only committed one such mistake in his first 154 Premier League appearances.

Since his Southampton debut on September 12, 2015, 13 outfield players have made more errors leading to goals in the Premier League than Van Dijk. He is in esteemed company on three, alongside the likes of Sol Bamba, Erik Pieters and, yes, David Luiz (and two above Harry Maguire).

He has some way to go to reach the top of this particular chart, though. Since Van Dijk's debut in the competition, John Stones and Granit Xhaka lead the way on six errors leading to goals.

 

FULHAM'S CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

Fulham were soundly beaten 3-0 by Arsenal on Saturday, stretching their run in Premier League London derbies to 11 defeats in a row (they lost 10 in 2018-19). That's the worst record in history.

In the all-time top-flight London derbies table (yes, that one), Fulham sit on 126 defeats and 41 wins from 223 matches. That's as many victories as Crystal Palace, nine behind Wimbledon, and 19 fewer than Queens Park Rangers.

Top of that particular table is Arsenal, unsurprisingly, who have won 324 of their 691 capital clashes. Chelsea are next on 256 wins - just two above Tottenham.

Bottom of the pile are Leyton Orient, with two wins from eight games. So, Fulham fans - it could be worse.

 

STEVEN FLETCHER, LOSING IN STYLE

Salah's hat-trick inspired Liverpool's win over Leeds and saw him claim another slice of Premier League history.

The Egypt star has now been on the winning side in each of the past 35 league games in which he has scored, which is a record in the competition, one more than the previous best held by Wayne Rooney for Manchester United from September 2008 to February 2011.

As the old adage has it, goals win football games - unless your name is Steven Fletcher. The Scotland striker boasts the unenviable record of having scored in 10 consecutive matches for Wolves in 2011-12 without ever being on the winning side.

The Premier League and Championship titleholders produced a classic for the ages to launch the 2020-21 top-flight season in England.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp promised Leeds United a ferocious baptism in the Premier League and a procession looked to be on the cards at Anfield when Mohamed Salah scored an early penalty.

But Marcelo Bielsa's team dazzled as they have since the coaching visionary arrived in West Yorkshire, with Jack Harrison, Patrick Bamford and Mateusz Klich all on target.

Each Leeds goal was an equaliser but Salah had the final word when he netted his second penalty of the contest to secure the points in the 88th minute.

Here, we look back at how a trilling encounter unfolded on Merseyside.

3:58 – LIVERPOOL 1-0 LEEDS
The anticipated frenetic start was quickly realised and surpassed, with Liverpool seeking to stamp their authority over ambitious foes. Robin Koch looked unfortunate to be penalised when Salah's shot spun up off the defender's boot and into his arm, but referee Michael Oliver and his video assistant agreed a spot-kick should be given and Salah slammed home his 50th Premier League goal at Anfield in his 63rd appearance. Only Alan Shearer (47) has reached that landmark faster.

11:13 – LIVERPOOL 1-1 LEEDS
Leeds were not cowed and Helder Costa had a goal ruled out for offside before Manchester City loanee Harrison darted in from the left flank, beyond Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez, to drill into the bottom left corner. On the week of his England debut, Kalvin Phillips created the goal with a raking pass from his own half – the midfielder's first assist in 19 league games.

19:38 – LIVERPOOL 2-1 LEEDS
Debutant Koch could not blame the officials when he switched off and allowed Van Dijk to head home Andrew Robertson's corner. It was the Dutchman's 10th Premier League goal for Liverpool, with no other centre-back scoring more since his Reds debut in January 2018. Robertson's assist was his 29th since his own Liverpool bow. Only Kevin De Bruyne (38) has more over that period of time.

29:10 – LIVERPOOL 2-2 LEEDS
Joy became despair for Liverpool's defensive lynchpin, with an uncharacteristic misjudgement allowing Bamford to nip in and clip a finish into Alisson's goal. Well, we say uncharacteristic… Van Dijk has now made two errors leading directly to a goal in his past four Premier League games, double the one he made in his first 154 in the competition.

32:14 – LIVERPOOL 3-2 LEEDS
Salah had already equalled Teddy Sheringham's record of scoring on four consecutive Premier League opening days when he put Liverpool ahead for a third time. Robertson's free-kick was partially cleared and the Egypt superstar thundered a magnificent left-footed strike into the top right corner.

45:00+3 – HALF-TIME
And breathe. This Anfield thriller became only the second game played in the opening weekend of Premier League fixtures to yield five goals before half-time. The other was Manchester United's 5-1 win over Fulham in August 2006, where the Red Devils were 4-1 up at the interval.

65:47 – LIVERPOOL 3-3 LEEDS
Don't let any Liverpool players take your dog for a walk this week. Midway through the second half they let another lead slip from their grasp. Helder Costa found Klich in the Liverpool box, where the midfielder's wonderful first touch was matched by an unerring volley. Poland international Klich has six goal involvements in his past six away games, with three goals and as many assists.

87:28 – LIVERPOOL 3-4 LEEDS
Leeds became the first promoted side to score three goals away to the reigning Premier League champions since Hull City in a 4-3 defeat at Manchester United in November 2008. Unfortunately for Bielsa's men they went down to the same scoreline. New signing Rodrigo Moreno clumsily fouled Fabinho and Salah sent Illan Meslier the wrong way to claim the matchball. Liverpool have now won each of the last 35 games in which Salah has scored, bettering the competition record of 34 set by Wayne Rooney in February 2011.

The ratings for popular video game franchise FIFA are often a bone of contention for its die-hard fanbase.

But for the professionals too they can clearly be a cause for debate and the latest scores for FIFA 21, revealed on Thursday, have proven no different.

Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi recently went through a real-life transfer saga, yet his on-pitch qualities were reflected by the fact he is the highest-rated player on the game at 93.

Cristiano Ronaldo drops to 92 this year, while Robert Lewandowski, Neymar, Kevin De Bruyne and Jan Oblak all carry a 91 value.

For some, though, the virtual attributes are not entirely appreciated … step up Inter forward Romelu Lukaku.

"Let's be honest FIFA just mess with the ratings so we players start complaining about the game and give them more publicity..." he wrote on Twitter.  

"I ain't with this s***. I know what I do."

It appears Lukaku, rated 85 overall, was particularly unhappy with a pace attribute of 81, adding: "Did EA Sports not see my goal against Shakhtar Donetsk. What is wrong with them?"

Lukaku was not alone, though, with Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte taking exception to his pace rating of 63.

Laporte posted two pictures on Twitter. Above one in which he was smiling, he wrote: "Waiting for my new FIFA rating." Above another with his head in his hand, he added: "Finding out I have 63 pace."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's rating has dropped to 87 overall, including a slight dip to his pace score, with the Arsenal striker responding to a tweet about the news with a series of, we assume sarcastic, laughing face emojis.

Not everyone was despondent, though. Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk said of his 90 rating: "What do you guys think, not bad right?"

Team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold said of his 87 to BBC Sport: "Yeah, I'm happy of course. 87, jeez. Wow, that's high."

However, a shooting score of 66 was contested by the England star.

"I think maybe they put that in there because it's my squad number. I'm hoping. Four goals from full-back ... I don't know," he added.

"I'm not going to challenge it too much. I would have liked it to be higher though."

Virgil van Dijk felt the Netherlands were suitably punished for a poor performance as they lost 1-0 to Italy in Monday's Nations League clash.

A header from Nicolo Barella secured victory for the Azzurri in Amsterdam and sent them top of Group A1, a point above the Oranje.

The home side kept Italy penned back in the closing minutes but created little by way of clear-cut chances, Manchester United's Donny van de Beek coming closest with a half-volley that was superbly saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Captain Van Dijk thought his side paid the price for a particularly off-colour display in the first half.

"It was a poor game for us," the Liverpool defender told NOS. "We couldn't really put them under pressure, we were sloppy in possession.

"The pitch didn't help, either, but that shouldn't be an excuse. We should be better - that's the conclusion tonight.

"The first half wasn't good. After the break, we tried to turn that around, and you saw it did go better at times, but generally it wasn't a good match.

"You try to put on all your pressure and, at a certain point, the players also get tired. It's then difficult to keep that up and, when we have the ball, to keep making runs.

"But I'm not going to make excuses. The first half in particular was average to poor."

Frenkie de Jong thought the Dutch were forced too far apart by Italy's pressing, leaving them unable to exploit any potential Azzurri gaps.

"They put pressure on us quickly," said the Barcelona midfielder. "They split us apart like that. When we had the ball, we were often far apart. It's then difficult to play football.

"This says nothing about our qualities. We will have to do better in the away game."

Kai Havertz has become Chelsea's record signing after leaving Bayer Leverkusen in a reported initial £72million (€80m) transfer.

That deal also means the Germany international ranks among the most expensive deals in Premier League history.

We take a look at the top five signings made by England's top-flight clubs as Havertz aims to hit the ground running at Stamford Bridge.
 

NICOLAS PEPE – Lille to Arsenal (£72m)

Tying Havertz as the fifth-most expensive signing by an English club, Pepe has not quite yet made the impact Arsenal might have hoped for when splashing out a huge fee at the start of last season.

Pepe scored 22 times for Lille in his final Ligue 1 campaign but managed only a comparatively measly five goals and six assists in the Premier League last term. The winger has competition from academy graduate Bukayo Saka – a PFA Young Player of the Year nominee – for his place now, too.

ROMELU LUKAKU – Everton to Manchester United (£75m)

It would be harsh to call Lukaku a flop, but Chelsea will want more from Havertz than the former Blue provided at United, who fought off interest from Stamford Bridge to secure his signature at the end of a 25-goal 2016-17 campaign.

Although Lukaku started reasonably well at Old Trafford, scoring 15 times in the league by the end of March in his first season, the Belgium international never really hit the heights expected of a United centre-forward and departed last year for Inter, where he has proven hugely successful.

VIRGIL VAN DIJK – Southampton to Liverpool (£75m)

Such a fee for a defender seemed extortionate in January 2018, but Van Dijk has arguably proved the best buy on this list. Already a standout performer for Southampton, the Dutch centre-back has taken a huge leap in Liverpool red.

Van Dijk was influential in his new club's run to the Champions League final in 2017-18 and then helped them go one better and lift the trophy the following year. A Premier League title finally followed last term, with Liverpool's huge outlay rewarded with defensive displays of remarkable consistency.

HARRY MAGUIRE – Leicester City to Manchester United (£80m)

United certainly appeared to pay attention to Van Dijk's early success at Liverpool as they followed suit with a massive move for a centre-back with Premier League experience. Maguire was signed just a year ago but is already Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's captain.

That is not to say Maguire has fully justified his fee just yet, though. Mistakes crept into the defender's play late in the season, while there may be extra pressure placed on the England man in the coming campaign after an off-season incident in Greece.

PAUL POGBA – Juventus to Manchester United (£89m)

United could yet challenge this fee with a move for Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund, but England's most expensive buy as it stands is a player the Red Devils previously let go for free. Pogba returned to Old Trafford in 2016 having developed into a world-class midfielder in Serie A.

Pogba has been the subject of criticism and transfer speculation almost since he arrived back at United, yet he remains a key performer and has scored precious goals in the Europa League final and against rivals Manchester City. The Frenchman is now forming an effective partnership with Bruno Fernandes.

Virgil van Dijk faces competition from three Liverpool team-mates and two rivals from Manchester City to retain his PFA Players' Player of the Year award.

Netherlands centre-back Van Dijk was the first defender to win the honour since John Terry in 2005 when he got the nod last year.

And this time around he is up against some familiar faces, with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mane also included after Liverpool's dominant Premier League campaign.

City, who finished a distant second as the Reds ended their 30-year title drought, have two representatives in the shape of Kevin De Bruyne and former Anfield star Raheem Sterling.

Alexander-Arnold is also in the Young Player of the Year Category, a list which contains Manchester United duo Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, Chelsea pair Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount, and Arsenal's Bukayo Saka.

In the women's game it is Chelsea who dominate the Player of the Year nominees, with Beth England, Sophie Ingle, Guro Reiten and Ji So-yun nominated along with Kim Little and holder Vivianne Miedema, both of Arsenal.

And for the women's Young Player of the Year there is a distinctly more northern feel to the shortlist, which consists of Man City quartet Lauren Hemp, Chloe Kelly, Georgia Stanway and Ellie Roebuck, United's Lauren James and Chelsea's Erin Cuthbert.

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk blamed his side's Community Shield penalty shootout defeat to Arsenal on their profligate finishing.

The Gunners won 5-4 on spot-kicks at Wembley on Saturday after a 1-1 draw with the Premier League champions.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's fine effort put Arsenal ahead but Takumi Minamino equalised in the second half with his first goal for the Reds.

Liverpool created the better openings, with Van Dijk seeing a goal disallowed for offside and James Milner spurning a good chance, but it was Rhian Brewster's penalty miss that ultimately handed Arsenal the trophy.

"I think their main chance was the goal. It was a good finish but we should have done better there and shouldn't have let him come onto his right foot, but obviously he finished it off," Van Dijk told Liverpool's website.

"During the whole game, we played well, dominated, pressed them well, and created many chances. Obviously in the end penalties is just a lottery and anything can happen.

"We are disappointed but we have to move on. Last year we lost on penalties as well and we won the league so we shouldn't panic, but obviously we wanted to win.

"We had a massive chance with Millie [Milner], obviously my disallowed goal and a couple of dangerous moments, but if you look at the game as a whole I think we created many chances that we should have done better maybe."

Van Dijk expects to see Minamino hit the ground running in 2020-21, the Japan international having taking some time to adjust to life in England since his move from Salzburg in January.

"I think Taki has been very good," the centre-back said. "After lockdown, he has been the Taki that we all saw when we played against him at Salzburg.

"He is very, very energetic and he is a fantastic player. It's good for him that he's coming out of his shell and for us as well."

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp insists the injury sustained by Virgil van Dijk in Tuesday's friendly with Salzburg is nothing to be concerned about. 

The Netherlands international was forced off in the 55th minute of the Reds' 2-2 draw in Austria after suffering a cut to his head. 

Klopp, though, confirmed after the game that the 29-year-old is not expected to suffer any lasting effects. 

"Virg only looks like he has a piercing now and has a plaster on it," he told Liverpool's official website.

"It should not be, and is, no problem. In the moment it is, of course, not cool but there will not be a problem."

Liverpool face Arsenal in the Community Shield on Saturday before kicking off their Premier League title defence against Leeds United on September 12. 

Virgil van Dijk has proven himself to be "unbelievable" in almost every aspect since joining Liverpool, but former Reds defender Kolo Toure thinks forwards can cause him more problems by running at him in one-on-one situations.

Netherlands international Van Dijk joined Liverpool from Southampton in January 2018 for a reported £75million, at the time a world-record fee for a defender.

His signing helped transform Liverpool from top-four contenders into a team that challenges for titles, as the Reds were only narrowly beaten to the 2018-19 Premier League title while also winning the Champions League.

Van Dijk's influence showed no sign of abating this term as Liverpool won a first league title in 30 years, while his performances continue to impress.

Toure, a former Liverpool and Celtic defender like Van Dijk, is an admirer of the centre-back but feels forwards might have a little more fortune against him if they are braver.

"He's an unbelievable player," Toure told Stats Perform News. "He's a top player. He's got speed, height - he can jump. He's got technique. He can switch the game with his long passes. He has got everything.

"I haven't seen many players challenge him one on one. In my opinion, that's his weakness! He's really tall and if you really attack him with the ball, he can struggle, but he's so clever.

"He's so clever because he drops well. But if you are really aggressive in attack in a one-on-one, I think you can get something from him.

"He's a really clever player. He's got [Joe] Gomez on his side, good players on his side to help him as well. There are good players around him and I think that makes his game easy. But I think he's got so many qualities."

Toure was part of the Liverpool team that were pipped to the title by Manchester City in 2013-14, losing out by two points after Steven Gerrard's infamous slip in a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea helped hand the initiative back to Manuel Pellegrini's men.

That gutting moment had hung over Liverpool and Gerrard in the intervening years, but their 2019-20 success erases that memory, according to Toure.

"Absolutely [it heals the pain of 2014]," he said. "When you play for a team like Liverpool… the fans, the atmosphere is unbelievable. An unbelievable club.

"I had a great time there. I saw players win the Premier League who I'd been playing with. I was happy to see them win.

"They are the best team in the world right now. Jurgen Klopp is doing an amazing job right now. [Former manager] Brendan Rodgers' signings have been really good as well for him. You can see that he's taken those players and really pushed them.

"Of course, he's added top players on top of all of that. This club is one of the best clubs in the world. They really deserve everything, they're really good guys, honest people working hard, loving the club and that's great. It's a great, great club."

Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk is desperate for Naby Keita to avoid another injury-interrupted season in 2020-21 and prove to the Premier League he is "world class".

Keita, 25, joined the Reds from RB Leipzig in 2018 after earning rave reviews for the German side and their sister club Salzburg, where he spent two years until 2016.

In Germany, Keita marked himself out as one of the most promising midfielders in Europe – his ability on the ball and knack for scoring or creating goals seeing him attract interest from many of the world's biggest clubs.

Liverpool stole a march by securing his transfer – reportedly worth up to £54million – almost a year early, so sure were they in his abilities, but his first two seasons in the Premier League have been impacted by injuries.

His form since the season's resumption after the coronavirus hiatus has given cause for optimism, however, with the Guinea international setting up goals against Aston Villa and Brighton and Hove Albion, and scoring in the 5-3 win over Chelsea.

Van Dijk is thrilled to see Keita shining on the pitch and hopes the midfielder's fitness issues vanish next term.

"I'm just very happy for Naby," Van Dijk told Liverpool's official website. "Naby is a fantastic guy, he works so hard and he is an outstanding football player.

"We see it week in and week out. He has unfortunately been unlucky with some injuries, but hopefully he can stay fully fit for the next season.

"I think he is world class, if I'm absolutely honest. I see all the moments when he has the ball, the smart moves, the smart intelligence.

"It's just incredible to see and I'm very happy for him."

Keita featured 18 times in Liverpool's successful 2019-20 Premier League campaign, seven fewer than he managed the season before.

The Premier League's longest season yet concluded on Sunday with Liverpool champions for the first time.

The Reds were comfortable in ending a 30-year wait for a top-flight title, but there was drama until the closing minutes of the final day.

Manchester United and Chelsea can celebrate Champions League qualification as the division's strugglers reflect on their contrasting fortunes.

Meanwhile, with the help of Opta data, we look at some of the quirkiest numbers from the 2019-20 campaign.


5 - David Luiz conceded five penalties in the Premier League this season, the most a player has ever given away in a single season in the competition.

167 - Jack Grealish was fouled 167 times in the 2019-20 Premier League, the most fouls won by a player in a single campaign on record (since 1998-99).

24 - Scott McTominay now has the fastest Premier League yellow card on record. He was booked just 24 seconds into Manchester United's December home win against Newcastle United.

2000 - It was a season of milestones for McTominay, who scored Manchester United's 2000th Premier League goal against Norwich City in October. They became the first club to the landmark.

27 - The Norwich class of 2019-20 became the only side not to record a single point from a losing position in Premier League history. They lost all 27 matches in which they fell behind.

4 - Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard's fourth-placed finish is the highest finish for an English manager in their debut Premier League season since Frank Clark's Nottingham Forest came third in 1994-95.

2 - Lampard's season ended well, but September's 2-1 defeat to Liverpool made him just the second Chelsea boss - after Bobby Campbell in 1988 - to lose his first four home matches in all competitions.

33 - At the age of 33, Jamie Vardy became the oldest player to win the Premier League Golden Boot, scoring 23 goals in 2019-20.

5 - Virgil van Dijk became just the fifth outfield player to play every minute for a Premier League title-winning side, following Gary Pallister (1992-93), John Terry (2014-15), Wes Morgan (2015-16) and Cesar Azpilicueta (2016-17).

2013 - Anthony Martial's June hat-trick against Sheffield United was Manchester United's first in the Premier League since Robin van Persie scored three against Aston Villa in April 2013.

7 - Martial and Marcus Rashford assisted one another a combined seven times in this season's Premier League, the most of any pairing in a single edition of the competition for Manchester United.

49 - All 49 clubs to have played in the Premier League have conceded at least one hat-trick after Raheem Sterling's three-goal haul against Brighton and Hove Albion in July.

14 - Manchester United won 14 penalties in the 2019-20 season, the most a team has ever won in a single Premier League campaign.

29 - Harry Kane is the only player to face more than one club in the Premier League and score against them all, with Sheffield United the 29th he netted against.

15 - Kevin De Bruyne ended the season with a joint-record 20 assists - tied with Thierry Henry - but he became the first player to set up 15 goals in three separate Premier League campaigns.

93 - Tottenham went a record 93 games without a goalless draw before they were held 0-0 by Watford in January.

Jurgen Klopp insisted Virgil van Dijk needed no further praise after completing an ever-present season for Liverpool, although he acknowledged the defender had surpassed expectations.

Van Dijk played every minute for Liverpool in the Premier League this term as they ended as champions, finishing 18 points clear of previous title-holders Manchester City.

The Netherlands international had similarly started each match of the 2018-19 season as City pipped the Reds on the final day.

Van Dijk has been recognised as one of the league's most accomplished, consistent centre-backs since signing for Liverpool from Southampton, yet Klopp has been just as impressed by his mindset and manner.

"I'm not sure if he needs another hour of praise," Klopp told reporters after Van Dijk scored against Newcastle United in a 3-1 win. "He's good, pretty good. He's a good centre-half.

"No, he's special, his combination of skills is special, his mindset – on top of that – is special.

"This makes him a pretty good centre-half and a good guy as well, which I like a lot. I would work with him as well if he was a little more difficult to be with, but he's really low maintenance.

"He's really nice to have. We knew when we signed him we'd get a really good player, but the package is so special, and we had no idea about that. That makes him really, really exciting."

Of Van Dijk's ever-present record, the manager added with a smile: "He takes his breaks in the games from time to time, which drives me crazy.

"But I get it, I get it. It was his big target, I think, that he could do that again. Hopefully that will be possible for the rest of his career. That would be absolutely special.

"We've tried to rest him but it's difficult. So far, it's went well, and we hope it stays like this, but now he has two weeks off as well, so he doesn't need more, I'm sure."

Klopp was asked how he might describe Liverpool's season and settled on "absolutely exceptional".

"It was exceptional, absolutely exceptional, [a club-record] 99 points," he said.

"Really, how we think about it, it starts on June 1, 2019, because, yes, it was the last game of the last season [the Champions League final win over Tottenham], but for us it was the first game of a pretty special time.

"So, after that, the European Super Cup, the Club World Cup and now the Premier League is absolutely exceptional. Getting 99 points after having 97 last year is absolutely exceptional."

With the Premier League set to restart on September 12, he added: "We have two weeks off and then we still have to write a couple more chapters of the book of this team."

Virgil van Dijk is looking forward to the "new challenge" of the 2020-21 Premier League season after Liverpool concluded their title-winning campaign with a win.

The Reds coasted to the title and ended with a club-record 99 points thanks to a 3-1 victory at Newcastle United on the final day.

Champions Liverpool trailed to Dwight Gayle's 25th-second opener, yet Van Dijk, Divock Origi and Sadio Mane made sure Jurgen Klopp's side ended the season in style.

The next campaign is just weeks away, with the Premier League returning on September 12, and Van Dijk was already turning his attention towards a title defence.

"It's been a big dream of mine coming true," the defender told BT Sport. "For all of us, for this beautiful club, it's outstanding.

"It should spur us on to try even harder to retain the title. It's going to be very tough. Teams are going to improve, going to want to beat us even more, but we'll focus on each game at a time. That's what we did this season.

"Hopefully we can be as consistent as we were this season. It's going to be a new challenge, but we shall look forward to that as well.

"If I'm talking personally, I don't think I need any more motivation. I want to go out there every opportunity there is, trying to get results together with the boys and enjoying the game.

"The second half I really enjoyed, how we played, how we pressed the ball when we lost it. That's the key for next season as well.

"We want to improve on the way we play and be as consistent as we have been this year. It's going to be hard, because I think consistency is the hardest thing in football. But it's going to be a nice challenge."

Despite Liverpool's sloppy start, conceding the fastest goal in their Premier League history, Van Dijk was delighted with the response at St James' Park.

"It was an outstanding game, I think," he said. "In the second half especially, we played amazing football, we created chances and it's a well deserved win.

"It's a good feeling to go into a little break. Hopefully we'll be all fresh and ready to go for the new season in a couple of weeks."

Klopp concurred with his star centre-back, saying: "I liked the game really. You call it in this country a dead rubber, so you don't know what to expect.

"I didn't like the goal we conceded obviously, but it helped. It made it immediately clear, 'Okay, we have to go', and the boys did."

He added: "I saw that we really worked in the game and tried to find a way and got better and better and better. It was better before the changes, but then the changes really helped massively.

"I really liked the game. It was far away from being perfect, but it's a good example for what the boys did over the whole season.

"They didn't only win football games when the sun was shining, the pitch was perfect and everything was perfect. They won a lot of difficult games as well.

"Today was a difficult game and we won it, well deserved, and stayed 95 minutes in the game after the season the boys played. Incredibly, really."

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has been named the Football Writers' Association's (FWA) Footballer of the Year.

The Reds won the Premier League title with seven games to spare, ending a 30-year wait for their 19th top-flight championship.

Playing arguably the best football of his career, England midfielder Henderson was influential in leading the side in a dominant campaign.

The FWA revealed Henderson, who has been out with a knee injury since early July, secured more than a quarter of the votes.

Team-mates Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane were in contention, along with Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne and Manchester United's Marcus Rashford. Liverpool pair Alisson and Trent Alexander-Arnold also had votes cast in their favour.

Henderson said: "I'd like to say how appreciative I am of the support of those who voted for me and the Football Writers' Association in general.

"You only have to look at the past winners of it - a number of whom I've been blessed to play with here at Liverpool, like Stevie [Gerrard], Luis [Suarez] and Mo [Salah] - to know how prestigious it is.

"But as grateful as I am, I don't feel like I can accept this on my own. I don't feel like anything I've achieved this season or in fact during my whole career has been done on my own.

"I owe a lot to so many different people – but none more so than my current team-mates, who have just been incredible and deserve this every bit as much as I do.

"We've only achieved what we've achieved because every single member of our squad has been brilliant."

The 30-year-old, who joined Liverpool in a £20million move from boyhood club Sunderland in 2011, has scored four goals in 30 league appearances this season.

As well as the domestic title, Henderson helped the Reds to lift the UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup, building on the success of their 2018-19 Champions League triumph.

Off the pitch, Henderson was also a key figure in the formation of the #PlayersTogether initiative, a fund for Premier League players to raise money for the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has been named the Football Writers' Association's (FWA) Footballer of the Year.
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