LIVERPOOL, United Kingdom, Jan 6 – Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes Virgil van Dijk will get even better after he scored the winning goal against Everton in a “fairytale” Merseyside derby debut.
Van Dijk headed home six minutes from full-time to give Liverpool a 2-1 victory in their FA Cup third-round tie with the Toffees after Gylfi Sigurdsson had cancelled out James Milner’s opener from the penalty spot.
The Dutchman became the most expensive defender in the world when he joined Liverpool from Southampton for £75 million ($102 million, 85 million euros) this month and Klopp could not be happier with his contribution in his first match for the Reds.
“Fairytale in a world with not a lot of fairy tales anymore, so I think something like that is quite special,” said the Liverpool boss.
“It was a difficult decision to make to be honest because, to be 100 percent honest, the first plan was not to start him but then Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan played a lot of games in the last few weeks, so I changed my mind .
“It was a big fight, it was not brilliant football, it was not the most beauty — it was how cup games should be. It is not about who is the better side, who can do this or that. Things like this can happen sometimes, but it is pretty rare.”
Van Dijk was a commanding presence at the heart of Liverpool’s defence, although Klopp thinks the centre-back has only given a glimpse of his qualities as he predicted the best is yet to come from the Netherlands international.
“He showed a lot of things we want him to show in the future very often,” Klopp added.
“Heading of course, football-wise his first touch was good, good under pressure and then around set pieces a proper threat,” he added, praising Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for his corner.
“I think first of all we should help him just to be as good as he is already because that’s why we took him. You don’t pay that amount of money for a player and think ‘OK, we can get another 80 per cent’, but of course there is room for improvement.
“But the first improvement will be to adapt really to the team, how we deal in different situations. But as I said, since he is in, we spoke more about it and we did it actually on the pitch.”
Everton manager Sam Allardyce felt his side had done enough at Anfield to earn a replay after a battling display.
“I’m very disappointed we’re not going back to Goodison and trying to get through to the next round,” he said.
“We may have saved it late on and I think it was a brilliant effort from the players, even though we’re disappointed.
“The performance deserved us to be able to take them back to our place, but that’s not to be.”