Virgil van Dijk admits it is an exciting time to be a Liverpool player, but warned the Premier League leaders have won nothing yet.
A year on since becoming the world’s most expensive defender in a £75 million ($95 million) move from Southampton, the Dutchman has more than justified his enormous transfer fee by helping to transform Liverpool’s defensive record.
Jurgen Klopp’s men have conceded just seven goals and are yet to be beaten in 19 Premier League games — a run that has enabled them to streak six points clear at the top of the table.
“It feels like it is an exciting time at Liverpool – and hopefully it will prove to be that as well,” Van Dijk told the club’s website.
“What’s important is we need to keep going; we cannot be satisfied with what we have right now because we have nothing at the moment. We need to keep going, stay humble and work hard.”
Van Dijk’s arrival helped spark a run to last season’s Champions League final, but two huge errors from goalkeeper Loris Karius helped Real Madrid retain their crown as European champions with a 3-1 win in Kiev.
The signing of Brazilian number one Alisson Becker to replace the German has further bolstered Liverpool’s defence, but Van Dijk is still credited as the man who has helped turn Klopp’s side into title contenders.
“Our defensive record this season has been spoken about a lot and I’m definitely proud of it,” he added.
“The entire team has contributed towards it and we should all be proud of the fact we’re trying to keep clean sheets, not only the defence.
“When things are going well people will probably say that I am the one that changed things, but it is not like that.
“But if things are not going well, I am the guy that will get the blame because of my transfer fee. But that’s the life we live as footballers.”
– ‘Huge hunger’ –
Van Dijk has also been named captain of the Netherlands as his reputation around the world has soared over the past year, but he believes at 27 he still has room for improvement.
“I have improved in every aspect of my game I think, but there is still plenty to improve.
“I still have some time to do that I think. I need to keep improving, doing what we’re doing and hopefully achieve good things.”
In contrast to their unbeaten run in the Premier League, Liverpool survived three defeats in their Champions League group to progress to the last 16 where they will meet German giants Bayern Munich.
And Van Dijk believes the pain of losing to Real in May will spurn Liverpool on to win a sixth European Cup in the coming seasons.
“As a player, losing a final can definitely give you a huge hunger to get back there and win it.
“Now I want to do everything that is possible to reach that stage again. It’s tough, but we need to keep doing what we’re doing and hopefully it’s going to happen again one day.”