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'I looked death in the eye' - Van Dijk recalls life-threatening appendix problem

‘Nobody wanted to raise this issue, but it needed to be dealt with because there was a chance that I would die.’

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk.
Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk.

VIRGIL VAN DIJK will enter Liverpool’s crunch Premier League run-in knowing the true meaning of life and death.

The Netherlands international underwent surgery on a burst appendix in 2012 during his spell at Groningen. Van Dijk’s mother Ruby was informed that only his fine fitness saw him pull through the ordeal.

Due in part to a poor diet, the issue occurred before a key derby against Heerenveen which forced him to spend 13 nights in a hospital before going under the knife.

He missed the rest of the 2011-12 campaign but returned the following year before going on to have spells at Celtic and Southampton.

In January 2018, he completed a world record €87m transfer to Liverpool and is now regarded as one of the best defenders in the world — a far cry from the situation he faced seven years ago.

“I looked death in the eye — and it was a terrible experience,” he told The Mirror. “For the first time in my life, football meant nothing to me. It was not important at all. This was all about trying to stay alive.

“My mother and I were both praying to God and, to be honest, we were discussing various scenarios. At one point, I had to sign these documents. It was a will. If I would die in hospital, part of my money would go to my mum.

“Nobody wanted to raise this issue, but it needed to be dealt with because there was a chance that I would die there and then.

“I remember lying in bed. All I could see were tubes and wires on my body. My body was broken. I was not capable of anything. The worst things went through my mind.”

The surgery had a dramatic impact on Van Dijk, who was bedridden for several days and was immobile thereafter, barely able to walk. He would spend another year in the Netherlands before moving to Celtic, where he began to make waves in the sport.

Speaking to BBC Sport earlier this month, he commented on the episode: “I put the TV on and a song came on — Viva la Vida by Coldplay, it was an emotional moment. If I hear it now I think of the tough moments and how good it is right now and how proud I can be.

“I couldn’t do anything for at least 10 days, I couldn’t walk. When I walked for the first time, I did 10 metres and was breathing like crazy. After a month, I started training with the physios to get my muscles back. After that I played a full season and went to Celtic.”

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