Everyone wants him . . . except the one person who matters
VIRGIL VAN DIJK insisted last night that he has done enough in a successful debut season in Scottish football to deserve a chance to join the Netherlands squad at the World Cup finals.
The 22yearold centrehalf has been shortlisted for the Cheque Centre/PFA Scotland Player of the Year alongside teammates Kris Commons and Fraser Forster and the Kilmarnock striker Kris Boyd and has become the centre of strong debate in his homeland thanks to Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal’s continued refusal to select him.
Co Adriaanse, the former head coach of Ajax and Porto, was the latest significant figure from the Netherlands to throw his weight behind Van Dijk’s claims for a first full cap when claiming he should be tried out with Terence Kongolo of Feyenoord in the centre of defence.
Van Gaal has started with the Feyenoord duo Stefan de Vrij and Bruno Martins Indi, Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar and Joel Veltman of Ajax in recent matches, but there remains uncertainty over the best options in the heart of the rearguard amid growing clamour for Van Dijk to be included for next month’s friendly with Ecuador in Amsterdam.
“I think I should be given a chance, definitely,” said Van Dijk, who left Groningen for Glasgow in a £2.6m transfer last summer. “That is my opinion. Everyone has their own thoughts and the coach’s ones are the most important.
“People in Holland are saying I should get an opportunity, but they are not the most important people to be saying that. If the coach doesn’t invite me, it is not going to happen. I was never nominated in Holland.
“I wouldn’t say I am hoping to go to the World Cup, though. I think it is a dream. Every player dreams of going to the World Cup and I certainly do, but I have had no invitation as yet, so that means there is nothing to be hopeful about. If I am not going, I will just head off on holiday to rest and get ready for next season.”
Van Dijk’s claims for inclusion in the Dutch squad are based, to some degree, on the experience he gained with Celtic in the Champions League this season. Yet he insists his sweetest memory from his first year in Glasgow was gleaned from a match in which he only appeared as a stoppagetime substitute after being dropped to the bench – the 30 home win over Kazakh side Shakhter Karagandy that earned a place in the group stages of European football’s premier competition.
“I’d say the most beautiful thing that happened this season was getting to the group stage in the game against Shakhter Karagandy,” said Van Dijk. “I only played about 10 seconds at the end, but it was an amazing feeling and I will never forget that. It was a moment in which I started to feel like a Celtic player and the moment I saw the fans go crazy. It was just an amazing night.”
Van Dijk’s agent HenkMaarten Chin stated last month that the defender would be moving to England this summer with “the absolute top clubs” taking an interest in him.
Van Dijk, himself, has hardly chastised him for his pronouncements and that may lead to Celtic supporters taking the option of reading between the lines for the truth of what is about to unfold.
“I read those comments, but I don’t know,” he said. “You never know what happens, but I’m still here and have a contract until 2017. The Champions League is a big incentive to be here. It is the competition in which you want to be playing and I think every player wants to be in the Champions League. I am dealing with speculation very well, actually. If there is nothing concrete, I have nothing to think about. There are five games left and I am fully focused on those.
“I am not a stressed person. If something is going on, I will have to think about it, but there is nothing at the moment. If you do well, there is going to be speculation. That exists everywhere and I am already used to it to some degree.”
VAN DIJK: Louis van Gaal refuses to pick Dutch defender for his national side ahead of the World Cup