Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman has revealed that he had to help Virgil van Dijk change his attitude earlier in his career because he was “too lazy”.
Koeman, who worked with Van Dijk at Southampton and with the Netherlands, says that he had to do a lot of work with him to improve his behaviour on the pitch. The Dutchman says that Van Dijk’s play can be seen as arrogant, but praises him for adapting and labels him as one of the best defenders around.
Speaking to UEFA, as transcribed by TMZ, Koeman opened up on his experience with Van Dijk. “It was great to work with Virgil because he is an open person, one who communicates.
“He likes to learn from everyone. He had to change his character because he was too lazy at times. Some say that his football is a bit arrogant. We worked a lot, but the credit goes to him.
“For me today he is one of the best defenders in the world.”
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Who better than Koeman to speak on Van Dijk as a person and player, given he brought him to England with Southampton and helped develop him into the footballer Liverpool signed. He then managed him as his national team coach, so he coached him in the early stages of his career and during his peak years over the last couple of seasons.
So, for him to give him such high praise as a person says a lot about Van Dijk. Koeman also highlights how good he is as a defender, but reveals an insight into Van Dijk’s personality by saying that he worked hard to improve his game after being labelled as lazy early in his career. It could have been easy for Van Dijk to keep playing the same way and not put the hard work in to get to the very top, instead he spent time with Koeman to improve his game and the rewards are there for all to see.