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Virgil van Dijk: Ronald Koeman, Juergen Klopp bring the best out of me

Van Dijk says both managers' criticism of him spurs him on

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has revealed that Holland coach Ronald Koeman and his club manager Juergen Klopp have a similar tactic in bringing the best out of him.

Van Dijk, who helped Holland qualify for Euro 2020 following a 0-0 draw with Northern Ireland yesterday morning (Singapore time), has been an integral player for both sides.

The stylish centre-back played under Koeman at Southampton in the 2015-16 English Premier League season before moving to Liverpool in January 2018 for £75 million (S$132m), where he won the Champions League last season.

With Holland, he was part of the squad who finished runners-up at the inaugural Uefa Nations League Finals before helping the Oranje yesterday qualify for their first major tournament since 2014.

Van Dijk's brilliant performances for both club and country over the year have also earned him a Ballon d'Or nomination, with the winner set to be announced on Dec 2.

And the Dutch captain believes both his managers have played a key role in extracting the best out of him by being critical in their respective assessments of him, the Liverpool Echo reported.

"I have a very similar connection with Juergen Klopp at Liverpool as I had earlier with Ronald Koeman at Southampton," said van Dijk.

"Like Koeman, Klopp knows exactly how to get the best out of me - by being critical.

"When the media are hyping me and being very positive, he will downplay the praise and all that, often with a wink.

"And when I was voted Uefa Player of the Year (in August) and had to go to the ceremony, Juergen told all the lads that I was picking up the trophy on behalf of the entire team.


"All the boys in the squad know I can take that sort of stuff very well. I know what he means. At the same time, the boss gives me a lot of respect and responsibility."

Holland will, however, miss their captain's presence for their final qualifier in Amsterdam against Estonia on Wednesday morning, with the Dutch FA putting his absence down to "personal circumstances".

The Estonia game will not have much significance as Holland survived a missed penalty from Steven Davis in yesterday's draw to qualify from Group C.

They sit second in the group, two points behind leaders Germany with one match left.

"It means a lot for us as players. Hopefully, it means so much to the Dutch people," van Dijk said earlier of their spot in the Euro 2020 Finals.

"We have to make sure we prepare very well for a big tournament. We missed the last two. We are going to the European Championship, let's just enjoy it now. We will prepare ourselves well for that."

Third-placed Northern Ireland cannot qualify via the group stage now, but they are assured of a place in the play-offs in March.