An immensely proud Virgil van Dijk is looking to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors and maintain the standards of consistent success at Liverpool during his captaincy.
Monday brought the announcement that the No.4 has been installed as skipper of the Reds on a permanent basis, succeeding Jordan Henderson.
Van Dijk will now take on the responsibility he also holds with the Netherlands at international level, after five-and-a-half seasons with the club and 222 appearances to date.
Trent Alexander-Arnold has been appointed vice-captain to begin a new chapter of leadership within Jürgen Klopp's squad.
Liverpoolfc.com sat down with Van Dijk in Singapore for an extensive chat about becoming captain and leading the team forward in 2023-24 – read on for the full interview...
Virgil, congratulations. The new captain of Liverpool Football Club. How does it feel?
Very special. Obviously first and foremost, thank you very much. A really proud day for me, for my wife, for my kids, my family. Obviously it's been a special feeling and I can't really describe it at this point. But it's something that I'm really, really proud of.
You’ve obviously captained the team many times before, but to now have the armband on a permanent basis, that must be such a proud feeling...
Yeah, obviously I'm captain of Holland, that was already such a huge honour, a proud moment as well. But also to be the captain of Liverpool Football Club is something that I can't describe at this point. It's just something that makes me very proud and I will do everything in my power and what I can do to make everyone proud and happy with me and the football club.
Does anything change for you now you have the armband on a permanent basis? Or is it business as usual?
It's business as usual but obviously we know we lost players in this last period that were big, big figures in the dressing room especially but also on the pitch. Others have to step up and take responsibility in the team, including myself. But yeah, there is a little bit more that comes along but I'm looking forward to it. It's obviously going to be not easy at times, it's going to be difficult on and off the pitch but I like challenges and I like to go for it. Obviously I know what it is to be a captain and now to be captain of Liverpool Football Club, I'm looking forward to it a lot and hopefully we can get a lot of success.
Can you give us a bit of insight into how the process worked? So, how were you told and when you were told you were being made captain?
Obviously over the last couple of weeks there's been a lot of talks about Jordan leaving us and then there's going to be the captain and the vice-captain leaving over the summer and then there will be changes. Obviously personally I was already the third captain of the team in the last couple of seasons and thinking ahead [that] there could be a big chance that I become the permanent captain of the club. Until the gaffer told me, it was obviously, I wouldn't say a nervous moment but it was still unclear. When he told me, I was obviously very thankful and I want to not only repay him but repay the club as well for their trust and hopefully create good memories. I'm looking forward to the season.
I want to just look at the two guys you've mentioned in your answer there and I think it's important to get a few words on the man you've taken the armband from in Jordan Henderson. He is a Liverpool legend and he will be a hard act to follow...
One-hundred per cent. I think you've seen all the reactions of all the players especially and the impact he had on us – obviously not only on the pitch but definitely outside of it. The support he has been, he was always the one that put others in front of himself at times. He's been so important for the football club and, like you said, he's a legend and he will stay that as well. I've learned so much from him and hopefully I can do him proud as well looking ahead.
Yeah, the same goes for Millie [James Milner]. He's been incredible for the football club. Obviously he didn't play that much over the last couple of years but his contribution on and off the pitch was immense. The standard he set for the group on and off the pitch, again, was something that we have to obviously carry on and others have to make sure that the standard doesn't drop. But like I said, I've learned a lot from these two guys. And that's the beauty of life – you experience a lot of things each and every day and you have to take the good things and also sometimes the bad things in order to progress. Hopefully I can show that as well – not only on the pitch but off the pitch as well.
In terms of learning from Hendo and Millie, is that going to be something you incorporate into your leadership now as captain?
Yeah, obviously I will never feel too big to ask questions or ask for help whenever it's needed. Obviously I still have the full confidence in myself that I'm ready for the job, and hopefully we can get a very successful season. Some things are going to be new for me because of how big the football club is, but I'm looking forward to it. With the rest of the guys in the leadership group, we need to form a very, very good, strong team with them in order to be successful with the rest of the team. That's the start. I'm very positive about it.
Although it's yourself and Trent being made vice-captain, that leadership group is so influential, isn't it? And it will help you?
Yeah, you need to count on each other. We are basically the team behind the team a little bit. At times we are the ones who have to feel more responsibility than others – and we should enjoy that as well. I'm confident that we'll be fine. There will be obviously a lot of moments where it's not going to be easy, but that's part of life as well and I think we all should be enjoying it and go for it.
In terms of Trent then – a local lad, Scouser who grew up a Liverpool fan. Now he's 24 and the vice-captain of the club he loves. How pleased are you for him?
It's a proud moment for him obviously and his family. I think he's in a phase now where he has to make that transition of becoming a big leader for the football club. I think he will make those steps. And with the help obviously of myself and the others, Robbo, Ali, Mo, obviously the manager, he can make the next step. I think to give that responsibility to him could definitely even more benefit him as well. So it's a very good choice. Obviously the others as well, they are as important and we all have to make sure that we take the responsibility.
What has it been like watching Trent grow? He has grown into a man and a world-class footballer…
It has been good to see definitely. It's pleasing. I saw him coming in as a little boy and obviously with loads of quality and loads of potential and he showed it already. Obviously everything that we won we did together as well. And now, like I said, he's in that transition of becoming and feeling that responsibility as well of being one of the leaders of the team. It's nice to see. How we also give everything and work for it, that's the standard we have to set in order to be successful.
Who looks after the fine system now Millie has gone?
We thought Robbo could be the one but we have to discuss it properly with the boys who are going to do that. I think everyone has to jump in a little bit for that and make sure that everyone is in check. But we have a good group that has already the Millie effect that no-one is really making sure that anyone is late or on their phones when they can't be on their phones. Everyone has to be on top and obviously with the leadership group, it starts with us. We have to set the right example but we all will and that's the only way that everyone will follow suit.
Since you came back to training at the start of July, there has been a sense of wanting to put what happened last season right. Is that something you're feeling too?
Yeah, obviously it has been a very disappointing year last year. It was actually not a bad run-in. Obviously in the end we didn't achieve anything we hoped to achieve and that was very disappointing. Then you're going on a very short summer holiday and you reflect on the season you've had, personally and as a team, and it hurts. It hurts a lot. You have pride as a human being and you feel like you could have done a lot better, you could have done a lot more consistently. I think that was a big thing that was missing: the consistent level that we showed over the last couple of years was missing. And obviously everyone wants to make this right.
We all feel we have to do this together again each and every day, each and every game, with the fans as well. Obviously it has been quite an interesting summer with players obviously leaving and new players coming in, this little transition that is going on. We also have to be a bit patient but we want to be there and we want to show what we're capable of because we have a fantastic group of players, staff, fans, stadium, we shouldn't even discuss that. But we can be up there again. It's all about doing it together with the consistency and hopefully we can show it.
Is that your message to supporters now as Liverpool captain, that you do want to put things right and do want to show the real Liverpool again?
Yeah, 100 per cent. Like I said before, it hurts a lot the kind of season we had last year compared to the seasons we had before and the successes we've had. But now we start from scratch – Chelsea away is going to be a very tough one, first league game. We want to show not only to ourselves but to the supporters and to the world that we are going to be back and we feel like we will be.