Jamie Carragher believes that expectations of Virgil van Dijk’s return to Jürgen Klopp’s side will have to be met.

The Dutch captain celebrated his comeback nine months after an anterior cruciate ligament operation on his right knee with a 20-minute mission in the 4-3 friendly defeat against Hertha Berlin on Thursday.

Van Dijk effectively has two more opportunities to grab a few minutes in preparation as Liverpool have consecutive games against Bologna in Evian next Thursday before two home games against Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna.

He’s likely only going to play one of those Anfield games, which was something he got ahead of the trip to Norwich for the Premier League opener on Jan.

Van Dijk and Joe Gomez in action against Hertha Berlin on Thursday

“I think we have to be careful and I think Jürgen Klopp will be,” Sky Sports’ Carragher said at a football aid event.

“I don’t think we should expect Virgil van Dijk to return to Liverpool and Liverpool automatically win the league again this season.

“He’s had a really bad injury and needs to make sure he isn’t pushed back.

“When he’s back to his best he’ll be the best center-back in world football and that is what Liverpool will want for the next five or six years, not the next five or six weeks.

Carragher urged Jürgen Klopp to be careful

“If he doesn’t make the first game of the season, it’s not the end of the world. It’s about making sure Virgil van Dijk is 100 percent right so that he can have Liverpool with him for the next five or six years at the highest Level.

“It may be a smooth start with Virgil until we see him if he’s 100 percent right, but if that could be this first game of the season and he can play the next few, everyone would be happy.”

After last season’s nightmare scenario when Liverpool dropped all three center-backs for most of the season, Klopp has strengthened himself with Ibrahima Konate’s £ 36m signing from RB Leipzig.

Ibrahima Konate has arrived from RB Leipzig
Ibrahima Konate has arrived from RB Leipzig

But the 22-year-old needs a period of getting used to English football and with Joe Gomez, who also made his comeback against Hertha after a break similar to Van Dijk with knee problems, and Joel Matip, who wasn’t there after January due to an ankle injury, both Coming back from long-term layoffs, it will be a tough decision for the Reds boss to play on Carrow Road.

“I don’t really envy Jürgen Klopp for choosing this center-back partnership for the first game,” added Carragher.

“At the moment, when everyone is at their best, the partnership has always been Gomez and Van Dijk, but I think it will be difficult for them to be at their best as they have both suffered serious long-term injuries.

PA - Virgil van Dijk
Jamie Carragher asked Van Dijk to be patient

“Whether Konate can resolve that … and Matip always comes in and does a very good job.

“It’s hard to answer because I don’t think all center-backs will be 100 percent fit and ready to fire. You have to gain confidence and play, regain that belief.”

Sources at the club have suggested there may be no further signings, with an emphasis on keeping established players on new contracts.



Liverpool players and staff at the club’s Austrian training camp paid tribute to Hillsborough victim Andrew Devine by maintaining a 97-second silence

However, Carragher would like to see the roster strengthened in two areas if possible.

“I think it’s not a problem in terms of numbers, I think it’s quality,” he said.

“If we haven’t brought in another signing, it could be difficult to knock Man City off the front, and let’s not forget Chelsea, the European champions, and Manchester United, who are with (Raphael) Varane and (Jadon) Sancho.

“I would love to see someone who can score goals, whether from midfield or part of the top three.

“I’m a little cautious at Liverpool after last season went into this season as to whether there are enough goals in the team to win the title.

“But I am expecting a great season from (Sadio) Mane. He’s not had his best season but he looks really good in pre-season. Hopefully he can be the man who can fill that gap in terms of goals.”