'We had no idea' van Dijk would be so special, says Klopp

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Jurgen Klopp insisted Virgil van Dijk needed no further praise after completing an ever-present season for Liverpool, although he acknowledged the defender had surpassed expectations.

Van Dijk played every minute for Liverpool in the Premier League this term as they ended as champions, finishing 18 points clear of previous title-holders Manchester City.

The Netherlands international had similarly started each match of the 2018-19 season as City pipped the Reds on the final day.

Van Dijk has been recognised as one of the league's most accomplished, consistent centre-backs since signing for Liverpool from Southampton, yet Klopp has been just as impressed by his mindset and manner.

"I'm not sure if he needs another hour of praise," Klopp told reporters after Van Dijk scored against Newcastle United in a 3-1 win. "He's good, pretty good. He's a good centre-half.

"No, he's special, his combination of skills is special, his mindset – on top of that – is special.

"This makes him a pretty good centre-half and a good guy as well, which I like a lot. I would work with him as well if he was a little more difficult to be with, but he's really low maintenance.

"He's really nice to have. We knew when we signed him we'd get a really good player, but the package is so special, and we had no idea about that. That makes him really, really exciting."

Of Van Dijk's ever-present record, the manager added with a smile: "He takes his breaks in the games from time to time, which drives me crazy.

"But I get it, I get it. It was his big target, I think, that he could do that again. Hopefully that will be possible for the rest of his career. That would be absolutely special.

"We've tried to rest him but it's difficult. So far, it's went well, and we hope it stays like this, but now he has two weeks off as well, so he doesn't need more, I'm sure."

Klopp was asked how he might describe Liverpool's season and settled on "absolutely exceptional".

"It was exceptional, absolutely exceptional, [a club-record] 99 points," he said.

"Really, how we think about it, it starts on June 1, 2019, because, yes, it was the last game of the last season [the Champions League final win over Tottenham], but for us it was the first game of a pretty special time.

"So, after that, the European Super Cup, the Club World Cup and now the Premier League is absolutely exceptional. Getting 99 points after having 97 last year is absolutely exceptional."

With the Premier League set to restart on September 12, he added: "We have two weeks off and then we still have to write a couple more chapters of the book of this team."

Source Omnisport