(Reuters) – Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk said the standard of his performances last season slipped below his usual high standards but the centre back thinks he is back to his best this campaign and is “important” to the team’s success.
The 32-year-old, who suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in 2020, has been one of the standout performers for Liverpool this season.
After finishing fifth in the Premier League last season, Liverpool are just one point behind Manchester City in the current campaign and travel to face the leaders on Saturday.
“Last year saw ups and downs, good games and less good games,” Van Dijk told British media. “I’m held to a very high standard, and I still am. That’s what I’ve created, and I enjoy that. If that’s not the case, then something’s not right.
“But I feel like I am in a good moment physically and mentally, and I feel like I am important. I just feel very good, and I want to keep going.
“For me the most important thing is how I feel, what my team mates feel about me and especially the manager. All the noise from the outside, whether it is very good or very bad you can’t do anything with it.”
Van Dijk replaced Jordan Henderson as Liverpool’s skipper in July after the England midfielder joined Saudi Pro League club Al-Ettifaq.
“What I strive for each and every game, but also all season, is consistency, that the team can rely on me at a certain level all the time and this year definitely off the pitch with the captaincy, something I enjoy and am learning still,” he said.
“I’m not perfect but I’m doing it my way and enjoying the challenge.”
(Reporting by Pearl Josephine Nazare in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)