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'I wasn't good enough at all' - Van Dijk reveals he was nearly axed by his first academy

13:11 GMT+4 11/05/2020
Virgil van Dijk Liverpool 2019-20
The Liverpool centre-back has become one of the world's great footballers, however the Dutch international says he almost never made it professionally

Virgil van Dijk is now universally regarded as one of the greatest footballers currently playing, however, the Liverpool central defender says he nearly failed to make it as a professional when coming through as an academy player.

The Netherlands international joined Liverpool for £75 million ($93m) in January 2018 and has gone on to win the Champions League with the Merseyside club, while they were just two wins from the Premier League title when the season was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

It was not a simple road to the top for Van Dijk, however, who says as a teenager coming through at Dutch club Willem II, he was not even guaranteed a starting spot at youth level, and was on the verge of being discarded by the club when a change in his physicality suddenly altered matters.

Van Dijk told Sky Sports: "I played in the academy of Willem II for 10 years. There was a period at Willem II when I was around 16 that I was on the verge of not going through to the next year of the academy. I was not good enough at all, I was on the bench a lot.

"In the summer I had a growth spurt and after that everything went really well. I had an injury in my groin because I was growing so much, but after that I made big steps."

From Willem II, Van Dijk made his way to Anfield via Groningen, Celtic and Southampton, impressing at each stage before finally taking his place at the centre of Jurgen Klopp's side.

Van Dijk thinks he has become a better player thanks to his circuitous route to stardom, and hopes it provides inspiration for any young player who suffers setbacks or uncertainty in their career.

He said: "It's been a good road so far that I have taken to where I am today, everything happens for a reason. I have come from hard work and a lot of dedication and that is something I am very proud of.

"It's something that should inspire a lot of young players that are out there that don't have the attributes of those who have been playing at the highest level since they were 16.

"There is another way to winning the Champions League. I am very proud of my journey so far and it has not finished yet."