Virgil van Dijk has been warned by a top surgeon he is facing a “considerable risk” if he pushes to return too early from his injury.
The Liverpool defender has been out of action with a serious knee injury since October but has been working hard on his rehabilitation as he edges his way back to full fitness.
Van Dijk was hopeful of playing some part in the remainder of Liverpool’s season, or at the very least making the Netherlands squad for the European Championships in the summer.
But orthopedic surgeon Bas Pijnenburg has now urged the Dutchman to take a more cautious approach and not pin his hopes on featuring in the tournament.
“A considerable risk,” Pijnenburg told NOS when asked about the prospect of Van Dijk playing fin the Euros. “It takes just as long for a top athlete to recover as it does for any other person.
“What makes it dangerous is that a knee can quickly feel good for a top athlete. The muscles and coordination may already be good, but recovery is still in full swing.
“Starting too early would also send a bad signal to other people who have had this surgery.”
Liverpool have refused to put a date on a potential comeback for the centre-back, with Jurgen Klopp suggesting previously it would be a “miracle” if he played again this season.
Since then van Dijk has been seen ramping up his rehab, including ball work out on grass and fast-feet exercises using training ladders.
Quizzed earlier this month whether the Euros was a more realistic target, Klopp replied: “That’s not my decision. But, to be honest, the information I have in the moment it will be unlikely.
“So, not that I don’t let them go because I don’t want to have to do that anyway, but it’s because of the extent of the injury.
“We all hope that they will be ready to start the pre-season with us. That’s what we hope.”
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Netherlands boss Frank De Boer has maintained a more positive outlook though.
He told De Telegraaf last month: “It’s going to be close for Virgil. He is working with so much energy. If you see what he does. In my time, you were only allowed to kick in the pool.
“If Virgil does not suffer a setback and if it [recovery] goes a little faster than expected, he must be able to make it to the European championship opening against Ukraine on June 13th. He’s very important to our team, on and off the pitch.”