Virgil Van Dijk should expect a “loud, not nice” reception from Southampton fans when he makes his return to St. Mary’s Stadium on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com), but he mustn’t let it affect his focus or performance, urges Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.
Given the nature of Van Dijk’s $100-million move from Southampton to Liverpool last month, no one is under any illusion that the 26-year-old Dutchman will be welcomed back with open arms. As such, Klopp has said he’ll speak with Van Dijk ahead of Sunday in an attempt to properly prepare the most expensive defensive signing of all time — quotes from the Guradian:
“I will talk to Virgil about it. With other players I didn’t talk about it because I didn’t know or look at where they were coming from. But I will talk to him. We are all human beings. We are influenced by circumstances. It will not be a normal game — how can it be? It was a special story for him most of the time, really positive, and then not that positive at the end.
“I know how football fans are. They want to disturb everything we do to help their team and they will whistle. Is it nice? I don’t think so. Will it have influence? I don’t think so, but we will see. We cannot make it too big, and I don’t make it too big. Yes, it is quite special, but that’s all. We think much more about the game and what we have to do and not about how we can avoid situations from outside because we don’t have influence. We have to accept it how it is — loud, not nice, maybe, but still we have to play football.”
While Saints fans are undoubtedly salivating ahead of their opportunity to jeer Van Dijk, the Reds are loving life since his arrival and Jan. 5 debut, during which he scored the winning goal in the Merseyside derby. 10 days later, Manchester City were handed their first loss of the season; back-to-back losses to Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion were a massive speed bump; Huddersfield were thrashed and Tottenham Hotspur were fortunate to get a point last weekend.