Virgil van Dijk has said the Champions League final offers the perfect opportunity for Liverpool to release the frustration of missing out on the Premier League title.
Jürgen Klopp has given his squad several days off following an outstanding league campaign that yielded 97 points, 30 victories, one defeat but not the trophy that Anfield craves, because of Manchester City’s stunning defence of the title. Liverpool will report back for a warm-weather training camp in the buildup to the Champions League final against Tottenham in Madrid, where Van Dijk believes the Premier League can serve as motivation to end the campaign on a glorious high.
“Frustrated is the right word,” said the PFA Player of the Year. “I think we are all going to be a little disappointed because we were so close. To get 97 points and play football like we have played all season, we have to be very proud. We work so hard every day to be challenging as close as possible but City were just a tiny little bit better than us. That’s football. Congratulations to City, they deserved it by one point. And it was a great title race. I’ve enjoyed every bit of it.
“But we have to look on the positive side and remember we are still in Madrid. Hopefully we can end the season on a high. It is fantastic to be in the Champions League final twice in a row. Hopefully we can a little bit better this time.”
The recognition of his fellow professionals was among several individual accolades for van Dijk this season but the commanding defender admitted he would happily exchange the PFA award. “It’s a big honour, a huge honour, but I would swap it immediately for the Premier League title,” he said. “To get recognition for what I have done this season is always good, especially as defender, but it is all down to everyone around me.”
Van Dijk’s immediate focus is on recharging the batteries ahead of the all-English Champions League final on 1 June. He added: “I will get some days off, I will relax the mind, enjoy the beach and after that get together for a camp and be ready for the final.”
The Liverpool chairman, Tom Werner, has shrugged off the disappointment of not winning the Premier League to declare it has been a superb season for the club.
The former Boston Red Sox chairman, who forms part of Fenway Sports Group along with the principal owner, John W Henry, said he was delighted with Klopp and believes Liverpool have gained in popularity across the globe with their feats, including the 4-0 demolition of Barcelona.
“It was a magical season,” Werner said. “We’re disappointed that we didn’t win the league but it was a remarkable season and the squad is exciting. We’ve made a lot of friends around the world and we’ve done well by our supporters.
“I can’t say enough about Jürgen and all the talent on the field. The way the team played on Tuesday, that was one of the great matches at Anfield. I look forward to a great match [against Tottenham] in Madrid.
“We’re only going to get stronger. Ninety-seven points, it’s a remarkable year. We didn’t win the league but we’ll be back next year and we’ve got a lot of motivation to win the league next year. I’m excited.”