Van Dijk: I wasn't good enough to be a centre-half at 16 but now I want to be a Liverpool legend

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The Dutch defender admits he has developed his game at a rapid rate in recent years and it has presented him a shot at major honours this season

Virgil van Dijk claims there was a time when he “wasn’t good enough to play centre-back”, but as the world’s most expensive defender, the £75 million ($98m) man is now looking to become a Liverpool legend.

Back in his teens, the Netherlands international has revealed that he was a struggling right-back making slow progress in the development of his game.

He found a way to deliver a reversal in fortune and has not looked back from that point.

Van Dijk told BBC Sport: “At 16, I was a slow right-back and wasn't good enough to play centre-back.

“I was never a standout player until I played for the under-19s and became the captain. Then everything went much better - I played some games for the under-23s and after that it went pretty quickly.”

From humble beginnings at Groningen, Van Dijk secured a switch to Celtic in 2013 and a Premier League move to Southampton two years later.

His rapid improvement soon sparked interest from leading sides across Europe, but he was made to wait for a record-breaking transfer to Anfield as those at St Mary’s initially expressed a reluctance to sanction his sale.

Van Dijk added on a long-running saga which eventually took him to Merseyside in January 2018: “After the end of August [and the transfer window] I put my head down, played for Southampton and gave everything. I was happy to play because I came back from an eight-month injury.

“When everything happened over the summer, people doubt you. For me, I really didn't care as I gave everything in games and training. When it was December and I got a call to say they got a deal done and I could talk to Liverpool, I was very happy.

“I went to the Juventus vs Real Madrid Champions League final in Cardiff in 2017, and a lot of Liverpool fans came to me and said I had to sign for them. It was a great gesture; they were nice and respectful.”

Virgil van Dijk Liverpool 2018-19

Having got the move he longed for, Van Dijk has made an immediate impact at Liverpool.

He has helped to push the Reds into contention for the Premier League title, while chasing down another Champions League crown, and the 27-year-old is determined to etch his name into the club’s illustrious folklore.

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Asked how he wants to be remembered in the future, Van Dijk said: “As a legend of Liverpool. I want to achieve amazing things here. We have a fantastic squad, we have everything, we have all the tools.

“They went all out to get me and I want to give everything for them. Before I started training [with the club], I went to the game against Leicester [in December 2017]. I was in the boardroom and met so many legends, great players who played for a beautiful club.

“When you play for this club, you'll always be welcome as you've been part of the family. It's one of the reasons I definitely wanted to play for the club.”