'I'll be back' - Van Dijk's defiant statement as Carragher gives his verdict on Pickford

Van Dijk leaves the pitch with a member of Liverpool’s medical team. Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Kevin Palmer

So Liverpool's worst nightmare has become a reality.

After the club confirmed late on Sunday evening that their talismanic defender Virgil van Dijk will undergo surgery to repair his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) after a shocking tackle from Everton keeper Jordan Pickford left his season in tatters, the post-mortem on an incident that could define Liverpool's season began in earnest.

The stench of injustice will linger for some time as Pickford escaped without punishment for a reckless lunge that should have resulted in a red card, but the two points dropped by Liverpool in the 2-2 draw at Goodison Park on Saturday now seems irrelevant after the scale of Van Dijk's injury was confirmed.

"This afternoon I met with a leading consultant to start the process of planning the finer details of my rehabilitation following the incident yesterday," stated Van Dijk, in a statement released on Sunday evening.

"I'm now fully focused on my recovery and will do everything I can to be back as quickly as possible. Despite the obvious disappointment, I'm a firm believer that within difficultly lies opportunity and with God's help, I'm going to make sure I can return better, fitter and stronger than ever before.

"In football, as in life, I believe everything happens for a reason and it's important to try and keep level headed whether going through the highs or the lows. With the support of my wife, kids, family and everyone at Liverpool, I'm ready for the challenge ahead.

"I'd like to thank everyone for the messages of support, it's meant a huge amount to me and my family, and I'll now be doing everything possible to support my teammates in any way I can ahead of a big few weeks ahead as I take my own recovery day by day. I'll be back."

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It was an upbeat statement from Van Dijk, yet the ramifications of the world's premier defender spending the rest of this season on the sidelines will not stop here.

John Aldridge suggested in his Sunday World column that Van Dijk's injury could end Liverpool's hopes of defending the Premier League title and such has been the impact of the Dutchman on Jurgen Klopp's team since his arrival at the club in January 2018, that assessment does not appear to be an exaggeration.

Liverpool's defence has been creaking in recent weeks and now it appears to be exposed without their main man plugging the holes, yet Reds legend Jamie Carragher was quick to downplay suggestions that Pickford's tackle on Van Dijk was delivered with malicious intent.

While Carragher stated that while Pickford should have been sent off for his lunge on Van Dijk, he does not deserve to be castigated for the outcome.

"Of course, it should’ve been a red card for Jordan Pickford - it was a terrible tackle," he said.

"There will be a lot of frustration now in the Liverpool camp, from the Liverpool supporters, maybe other people - neutrals - wanting Jordan Pickford to be banned. 'This is a terrible tackle, this is this, this is that'.

"Be very careful with that. And I am going to defend Jordan Pickford. These things happen unfortunately in football. I don’t think anyone goes out of the way to deliberately hurt someone.

Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk is challenged by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford (Laurence Griffiths/PA)

"I don’t believe that maybe 99% of these really awful injuries or tackles on players...hand on heart, I believe professional footballers will not try and hurt someone.

"Jordan Pickford is all over the place with his game at the moment, he comes out and makes a crazy decision as he has been doing over the last 12 months.

"Very unfortunately, for one of the top players in the Premier League, he's obviously in a bad way. I really believe this will be the case: Jordan Pickford will not be in a good place himself tonight, and I hope he isn’t in some ways.

"It is a really serious one. We all feel for Van Dijk. Pickford has made a really poor decision, a really poor challenge. But that should be the end of it.

"People are talking about a retrospective look back at it, but these things, unfortunately, happen in football."

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Carragher's balanced view of Pickford's role in this Van Dijk tragedy may not be shared by many outraged Liverpool fans, but such venom will not re-write a story that added up to a horror story for Klopp and his team of champions.

Those who have doubted Liverpool's strength in depth have waited for a moment when one of their key men was taken out of the game, with Pickford's act of violence ensuring we will now get some answers to that question.

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