Virgil van Dijk’s iconic moments for Liverpool, Celtic, Netherlands and more

The £75m defender was a huge miss for the Reds after suffering a serious injury in 2020/21 but now he’s back on the comeback trail and targeting a Premier League return.

Liverpool's defensive colossus Virgil van Dijk hasn't looked out of place from the moment he set foot on the famous Anfield pitch. Yet, despite a record-breaking move to Merseyside in January 2018, few could have foreseen the part he would have to play in making Liverpool a dominant force once more.

The Dutch centre-back had plenty of time to reflect on his own relentless rise after picking up a serious knee injury in October which ruled him out the remainder of Liverpool's season.

He sat out Euro 2020 as he focused on his recovery but now he's back, playing the final 20 minutes of the Red 4-3 friendly defeat to Hertha Berlin in Austria on Thursday.

Planet Sport looks back on his defining moments of Van Dijk's career which only serve to highlight what a big miss he was last season.

Dead-ball specialist

Van Dijk is a deadly set-piece threat thanks to his great heading ability and aerial presence.

And it's only a flurry of Liverpool technical talent that is stopping him standing over the ball himself.

He made a name for himself at Celtic with his free-kick abilities and was a regular taker of dead balls in attacking areas.

In fact, he scored some stunning goals in Green and White, including memorable efforts against Hibernian and Dundee.

Van Dijk was part of three Scottish Premiership-winning sides between 2014 and 2016, while also winning the Scottish League Cup in 2015.

Captain Fantastic

Van Dijk leads by example both for club and country, and one manager in particular who recognised that was Ronald Koeman.

The Barcelona coach - who was a top European centre-back himself - was responsible for giving Van Dijk the Netherlands captaincy in 2018, as well as introducing him to English soccer in 2016 as manager of Southampton.

Although a prosperous spell with the south coast club ended on a sour note due to Liverpool's approach, the defender had earned the armband in January 2017.

Wearing the honour with pride, he helped lead Southampton to an EFL Cup final and took the Netherlands to the UEFA Nations League final in 2019.

The flying Dutchman

This title is more than justified, and upon his arrival on Merseyside in 2018 he certainly landed with a bang.

Van Dijk cost £75million, a record fee at the time for a defender, and the first task for the record-breaker was to keep Liverpool's rivals Everton at arm's length in an FA Cup third round tie at Anfield.

What is the best way to introduce yourself to your new fans? By scoring the winner against your biggest local rivals, of course.

He rose highest in the box in the 84th minute to connect with an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain corner, nodding the ball past Jordan Pickford at the Kop end to complete a 2-1 win.

Battle in Bavaria

Another of Van Dijk's leaping headers made quite an impact in a massive Champions League last-16 encounter with Bayern Munich in March 2019. But it was his all-round performance and man-of-the-match display that proved decisive in the most important away win of Liverpool's season.

Jurgen Klopp's side pulled off some almighty shocks in the 2018/19 campaign, and a 4-0 victory over Barcelona will always take pride of place in the history books. However, a 3-1 success at Bayern set the tone for a relentless campaign.

The Dutchman rose highest in the second half to head home from a corner and put Liverpool 2-1 up. His goal came after a magnificent ball over the top to find Sadio Mane who swivelled and chipped the ball into the net to complete one of the most aesthetically pleasing goals you are ever likely to see.

A quite sensational European night for Liverpool which would set the tone for a few more to come...

Man of the moment in the Madrid

Van Dijk performs when it matters, and even though it was an uneventful game he came away from the 2019 Champions League final with the man-of-the-match award and a winner's medal around his neck.

The 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur was a fitting end to Liverpool's run to the final, as they were able to enjoy the occasion after leading from the first minute.

After heartbreak in the final the year before, Van Dijk and many of his team-mates made the most of a second bite of the cherry and will forever be ingrained in history as bringing home the club's sixth European Cup.

Awards and accolades

Liverpool's No. 4 has built up quite an impressive trophy cabinet with numerous titles at both Celtic and Liverpool. However, it's on an individual basis that he has stood out throughout his career, earning more than 20 personal honours including top-three placings in both the Ballon d'Or and The Best FIFA Football Awards.

His first full season in Liverpool red was prosperous to say the least, and despite final day Premier League heartbreak the players atoned for it with a Champions League final victory soon after.

Van Dijk benefited the most that season, and was voted the PFA Premier League Player of the Year - as voted for by the league's players themselves.

He also earned Player of the Year titles at both Celtic and Southampton, and despite injury bringing a premature end to his 2020/21 season, remains an integral asset to both club and country.

Pride of the Premier League

When Liverpool accumulated 97 points and only lost one game in the 2018/19 Premier League season yet still lost out on the league title few would believe they could replicate such form again.

However, the following season saw a Manchester City drop-off, while Klopp's Liverpool were relentless in their pursuit of the club's first league title in 30 years.

Van Dijk's contribution was once again integral, scoring five goals and helping keep 15 clean sheets across the season - 10 of which came in a frugal 11-game spell.

What Liverpool wouldn't give for similar stats in 2021/22.

READ MORE: How the Scottish Premiership table might look without Rangers and Celtic