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Master Johan Cruyff was the early inspiration for Virgil van Dijk

By Ronnie Esplin

Celtic defender Virgil van Dijk has revealed the attacking side of his game was indirectly influenced by the great Johan Cruyff.

The Dutchman's talents as a centre-back has led to him being linked with a move to England in the January transfer window with Arsenal reportedly one of his suitors.

However, he showed his prowess in the opposition penalty box against Partick Thistle on Wednesday night when he notched his sixth goal of the season - the first for Hoops at Parkhead - in the 1-0 home win to ease Celtic three points clear of Inverness at the top of the Scottish Premiership.

The 23-year-old, who started his career as a youth at Willem II, claimed his sharpness in front of goal was honed as a kid playing on pitches named after Holland's most famous player - although he does not see his future as a striker.

"I have never played as a striker regularly but when I was younger I was always the winger or striker," said the former Groningen player.

"We have Johan Cruyff courts in Holland. They're small pitches where you play games of five-a-side.

"The level is very high and a lot of professional footballers like to play there as well.

"So that's what I did when I was younger and sometimes you can see it a little bit on the pitch.

"But I love to defend as well, that's the main thing and the important thing for me.

"I can't remember when I became a defender but when I was at Willem II I was a defender and I'm still a defender.

"I want to be there for the rest of my career.

"If I can score a goal and help the team and win games it's going to be fun as well.

"Last year I think I had five in total and I always want to improve myself. I just want to win games and be a champion."

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