In­ter­view ‘I have picked up from Van Dijk how to be a leader on the pitch’

Nathan Ake has been in­spired by his Hol­land cap­tain to sup­ply the defensive com­mand his new club Manch­ester City re­quire

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Total Football - By James Ducker north­ern foot­ball correspond­ent

There were plenty of oc­ca­sions last sea­son when Manch­ester City sup­port­ers, ex­as­per­ated by their team’s defensive prob­lems and ru­ing the de­par­ture of Vin­cent Kom­pany and the loss of Aymeric La­porte to a long-term in­jury, must have looked long­ingly at Vir­gil van Dijk.

The Liver­pool cen­tre-back’s im­pact on Mersey­side has been hard to over­state, the Dutch­man form­ing the bedrock of the club’s march to a first do­mes­tic cham­pi­onship for 30 years, 12 months af­ter help­ing steer them to Euro­pean Cup glory.

Many of Van Dijk’s lead­er­ship qual­i­ties were in ev­i­dence in a video the Hol­land side posted of their cap­tain on their so­cial me­dia feeds af­ter a 1-0 win over Poland ear­lier this month and, while there was an in­evitable rush among Liver­pool fans to ac­claim ar­guably the world’s best de­fender on the back of it, they were not the only in­ter­ested ob­servers.

Nathan Ake was op­er­at­ing at left­back for Hol­land that night in Amsterdam but, while it may have af­forded him an up close and per­sonal view of the tow­er­ing fig­ure to his im­me­di­ate right, it did not pre­vent the de­fender from later sit­ting down on his own to watch that 59-sec­ond clip of Van Dijk con­stantly mar­shalling, or­gan­is­ing, ca­jol­ing and com­mu­ni­cat­ing.

Hav­ing joined City from Bournemout­h in a £41mil­lion deal last month, Ake will hope to be part of a

New home: Nathan Ake at the Eti­had Sta­dium and (be­low) with Vir­gil van Dijk

side that wrest the ti­tle away from Liver­pool, a sea change from the rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle he fought and ul­ti­mately lost with his for­mer club last sea­son. Yet, as he talks about his am­bi­tions ahead of a po­ten­tial de­but away to Wolves tonight, it is clear that Van Dijk has be­come a valu­able ref­er­ence point for a man Pep Guardi­ola hopes will help to ease City’s defensive frail­ties.

“It’s more see­ing it [from him than speak­ing to him about it],” Ake says of Van Dijk’s lead­er­ship. “Like with that clip the na­tional team put out on In­sta­gram with the way he was com­mu­ni­cat­ing. It’s those kind of things I’m try­ing to pick up and learn from.

“The way he be­haves on the pitch as a leader, al­ways talk­ing, al­ways or­gan­is­ing the line, help­ing the other peo­ple in front of him, I’ve picked up those kinds of things over the year and try to im­ple­ment them in my own game and get that lead­er­ship.

“It’s not easy. In the last year es­pe­cially, I tried to step it up at Bournemout­h more on the pitch, and some­times off it – things like or­gan­is­ing the team, try­ing to pick them up in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions when

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