Liverpool will miss Virgil van Dijk but must remain resolutely focused on their objectives for the season, Jordan Henderson has stated.
Van Dijk will miss a Premier League game for the first time since January 2018 when Sheffield United visit Anfield tonight due to the knee injury he sustained during last weekend’s Merseyside derby.
But, while acknowledging the huge blow of being without the No.4, Henderson insists the rest of Jürgen Klopp’s squad will strive to prosper despite his absence.
“As was said most of last week, he’s the best defender in the world. Of course he is. I think I’d go further and say he’s in the running for the best player in the world, regardless of position,” the captain writes of Van Dijk, in his notes for the official matchday programme.
“But it’s his presence and personality that will leave a hole on matchdays and in the training sessions. As important as the fans think he is, to us as teammates it’s even more so.
“It was typical of Virgil that after digesting the news, one of the first messages he sent to us – all of us – was upbeat and inspirational. The exact content will of course remain private, but there wasn’t one word in there feeling sorry for himself. It was all about looking ahead and making sure he comes back better and stronger.
“Likewise when he came to Melwood on Tuesday he just radiated positivity. That’s the big man. And it’s on us to take his lead and only think about the positive impact we can all have from this moment on.
“Any team on the planet would miss Virgil, that’s just common sense. But in the spirit of not making an issue bigger than it needs to be, we can’t do anything about that for a while. What we can do is focus on being better ourselves.
“I look at the players we have who can play that position and I wouldn’t swap them for anyone else. Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Fabinho are international-quality players who have produced for us as a team time and time again.
“Nat Phillips is nearly back to full fitness and has the making to be a very good centre-half. Rhys Williams has impressed me so much with his attitude and his mentality. Billy Koumetio and Sepp van den Berg likewise. All learning in the best environment there is.
“Are any of them Virgil van Dijk? No... but they don’t need to be. They just need to be themselves and give everything they have for this club, be it in training or when called upon in games. And the rest of us have to be there to help.
“Virgil will back with us in no time at all, I’m sure. Because he is such an extraordinary professional I know he will come back not just as good but better. He’s the sort of character who will use the time out to learn and develop. But while we wait for him we don’t stop.”