Virgil van Dijk named Holland captain for England friendly
The world’s most expensive defender joined Liverpool for £75million in January.
Virgil van Dijk will begin life as Holland captain against England after being handed the armband by new national manager Ronald Koeman.
Koeman, who was named as Oranje boss in February, has a longstanding bond with the centre-half from their time together at Southampton and had little doubt about handing him the job.
The world’s most expensive defender, who joined Liverpool for £75million in January, will play a key role in Koeman’s planned Dutch resurgence after they missed out on Euro 2016 and this summer’s World Cup, and his reign will begin against his adopted country in Amsterdam on Friday.
“To be named captain is very special, it means a lot for me,” said Van Dijk.
“It’s going to be a special game, my first game as captain of my country. It’s definitely going to be something special and being against England is a little bit more special even.
“Everyone knows he (Koeman) gave me my chance at Southampton and I’m very grateful for what he has done for me so far in my career.”
Sitting alongside the centre-half at the Amsterdam ArenA, Koeman explained: “Virgil is the first-choice captain. He is a natural leader. A player that on on and off the pitch is a big personality.
“I know him from Southampton, so I have a good idea of what Virgil is like.”
Koeman was sacked by Everton earlier this season after a summer of expensive recruitment turned into a dire start to the Premier League campaign.
Jordan Pickford, brought in for £30million, was one of Koeman’s more successful signings and could start on Friday.
“That was the reason we signed Jordan from Sunderland to Everton, because we expected that we signed the new number one of the national team,” he said.
“He’s still a young goalkeeper, he needs to improve but already he’s on that level that he can compete with the rest of the good goalkeepers in the Premier League.”
Asked if he missed his life in England or pined for the cut and thrust of the football, the 55-year-old added: “No, I’m really happy to be national coach of Holland.
“Of course I admire and respect the Premier League. I had a great time and everyone knows how that time finished at Everton.
“Looking back it was a great time, three and a half seasons to be part of the Premier League but it’s a different project now with the national team.”