Virgil put on a true Captain's Performance

Liverpool needed a hero, and up stepped Virgil van Dijk

Chelsea v Liverpool - Carabao Cup Final
Chelsea v Liverpool - Carabao Cup Final / Visionhaus/GettyImages

In the high-stakes world of top-flight football, facing adversity is standard all across multiple echelons of the sport. Very few, however, could've predicted the supreme bad luck that Liverpool had to endure on the eve of the League Cup final.

Injuries to key players, namely, Mo Salah, Alisson, Diogo Jota, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dominik Szoboszlai, Darwin Nunez, and Curtis Jones put the Reds in a tough position, as the majority of those injured belong in the club's best eleven.

For Jurgen Klopp and his remaining senior players though, the show had to go on, and even with the injuries, the Reds managed to field a relatively competent eleven for the final, which just speaks to the excellent squad depth we've had throughout the season.

A lot rested on the shoulders of Liverpool's senior contingent, including captain Virgil van Dijk, who entered his first Cup Final as captain of the Reds. 120 minutes of football later, Liverpool were 10-time winners of the League Cup, with Van Dijk putting in a colossal shift, leading a beleaguered Reds side.

Virgil Van Dijk, Caoimhin Kelleher
Van Dijk and Caoimhin Kelleher were Liverpool's players of the game as the Reds won their record, 10th League Cup / Visionhaus/GettyImages

In retrospect, it hasn't been always smooth sailing for the Dutchman over the last 12 months or so. Despite his status as an undisputed Liverpool legend and one of the greatest center-halves in football history, there were quite a few whispers that the Netherlands captain is past his imperious best.

This certainly had a bit of merit, as van Dijk didn't look as assured and had quite a few shaky moments throughout Liverpool's disappointing 2022/23 campaign.

Fast forward to this season though, and van Dijk has undoubtedly been one of Liverpool's players of the season.

With the Reds currently top of the league, in the knockout stages of the Europa League, and, of course, League Cup winners. It's definitely safe to say that normal service has resumed for our colossal Dutchman, and this certainly showed on Sunday's final.

Leading a depleted Liverpool side, with a bench practically filled with a cadre of academy youngsters, Van Dijk completed 91% of his passes, won four aerial duels, made seven clearances, and most importantly, scored the winning header in extra time to seal the victory for Klopp's men.

It was a victory that encapsulated Jurgen's "never give up" mantra that he instilled throughout his time with the club, and van Dijk was at the vanguard of this monumental effort.

Obviously, the news of Klopp leaving at the end of the season makes every game matter more. There's no doubt that Sunday's win would rank among the best of the German's Liverpool tenure, especially given the circumstances.

For van Dijk though, he and the rest of the Liverpool contingent would feel that the job isn't done, as the Reds are still firmly in the race for the three other trophies to be won this year.

As the saying goes, "form is temporary, class is permanent." It was really easy to write off big Virg as a declining asset at the start of the year, but, as he would tell you himself, reports of his demise are, greatly exaggerated.

Looking forward to our number four leading us to more trophies this season and beyond. Up the 10-time League Cup-winning Reds!!!!