Virgil van Dijk: from potwasher to most expensive defender

January 3, 2018
The centre back put pen to paper on a £75million deal with the Merseyside club last week
The centre back put pen to paper on a £75million deal with the Merseyside club last week

For Virgil van Dijk, the path to becoming the world’s most expensive defender was one littered with pots and pans – as well as pesky strikers.

The Dutch international finally agreed a £75million move from Southampton to Liverpool last week after a protracted pursuit from Jurgen Klopp‘s side.

The world-record deal caps an incredible rise for the defender – who was once urged to put his effort into pot-washing rather than football.

Virgil Van Dijk became the most expensive defender in history when he signed for Liverpool

As a teenager, Van Dijk would work in the kitchen of the Oncl Jean restaurant in Breda, Holland

Van Dijk is set to pocket £10m a year at Liverpool. But only 10 years ago the Dutchman, then 16, was cleaning dishes in a restaurant to make ends meet.

The 26-year-old worked in the kitchen of the Oncle Jean restaurant in his native Breda in Holland, where owner Jacques Lips encouraged him to give up his dream.

‘He was a good worker. He would scrub hard and do his job properly,’ Lips told The Mirror. ‘He was always here on the two busiest nights of the week. He was training hard to try and become a professional and had joined the academy of neighbours Willem II.

‘After work, his dad always used to pick him up. I would often tell him he should wash more pots and stop trying to become a professional player.

The Dutchman, who a decade ago worked as a restaurant pot-washer, greets Jurgen Klopp

Van Dijk caught the attention of Premier League clubs during an impressive spell at Celtic

‘”Stay here, Virgil”, I used to say. “Here you have the opportunity at least to earn a few quid”. He has absolutely made it and I hold my hands up. He deserves everything he is getting.’

Lips has never given up on hopes of luring Van Dijk back to the kitchen, however, revealing: ‘Nobody at this place has ever forgotten Virgil. He was a great lad. In fact, we’ve always kept his name and phone number in our work book for temps.’

Before joining the Willem academy, Van Dijk learned his trade at his local club – WDS in Breda.

The 26-year-old returned to his first club WDS in Breda last year with his Holland shirt

Under the coaching of Ferdi Hoogeboom, John van den Berg and Rik Kleyn, a seven-year-old Van Dijk  would train each Saturday.

Nearly two decades on, the defender has not forgotten the club’s role in his route to super-stardom. Last year he returned to WDS with his Holland shirt as a gesture of gratitude.

‘Despite our coaching, he’s made it!’ joked van den Berg. ‘He came to show his respect for his very first club and the people at this club who helped him. I’m not surprised he’s become a central defender. When he was seven he was bigger and stronger than the others.’


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