Regardless of which team you support, it was hard not to feel saddened by the news that Virgil van Dijk could miss the rest of the season with an ACL injury.
The talismanic Liverpool star, who is widely regarded as the world’s best centre-back, was substituted after 11 minutes of Saturday’s Merseyside derby against Everton.
Van Dijk was injured following a dangerous challenge by goalkeeper Jordan Pickford who, in the eyes of many, was extremely fortunate to avoid punishment.
Liverpool confirmed on Sunday that Van Dijk will undergo surgery on his knee, with the club adding: “No specific timescale is being placed upon his return to action at this stage.
“Following surgery, Van Dijk will begin a rehabilitation programme with the club’s medical team to enable him to reach full fitness as soon as possible.”
Some football fans have called for Pickford to face retrospective action over his challenge, although the Football Association have confirmed this won’t happen because the incident was seen at the time by match officials, including VAR.
Meanwhile, Merseyside Police has reportedly launched an investigation following a host of “totally unacceptable” tweets directed at the Everton and England ‘keeper in recent days.
However, former England shot-stopper Rob Green - who played for the likes of Norwich City, Queens Park Rangers and West Ham before retiring after one season with Chelsea in 2019 - analysed the incident for Sky Sports News on Tuesday and provided a goalkeeper’s perspective.
Green has spotted how Pickford was focused solely on the ball and only saw Van Dijk at the last moment, which then encouraged him to pull off a ’starfish save’ while the ball was in the air.
“It’s a slow, high looping ball which gives him time to come for the ball,” Green said.
“He feels like he can come but he doesn’t know where Virgil van Dijk is yet - and that’s the key moment: the realisation of where Van Dijk is.
“His eyes are solely focused on the ball - you can see he’s in action and ready come. You just see there, there’s a pause in his run.
“He realises there - you can see him looking and realising Van Dijk’s there - ‘I probably can’t get this ball now’. He also realises he’s too late in trying to get there.
“It’s a difficult one. Every goalkeeper’s been there. He comes out and wants to make himself as big as possible. He adopts the starfish save - the difference [to normal] is the ball’s in the air.
“He loses control because he jumps in the air and it’s an awful collision. It’s a terrible, terrible impact on Van Dijk’s leg.
“It’s a really tough one because you see that’s the key moment: he realises where Van Dijk is and realises he can’t get to the ball.”
Watch Green’s analysis of the incident here…
Let’s see how football fans have reacted to Green’s analysis on Twitter…
Whether you agree or not, it’s refreshing to hear the incident discussed from a goalkeeper’s perspective.
Green has some sympathy for Pickford and clearly doesn’t believe there was any malice intended with his challenge.
That may come as little consolation to the Liverpool fans or, indeed, Van Dijk himself.
But it may explain how Pickford managed to get it so wrong.
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