Van Dijk backs Salah to shine in Kiev showpiece

Liverpool’s Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk says Mohamed Salah has the all-round ability to strike fear into the reigning European champions Real Madrid. (Reuters)
Updated 28 May 2018
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Van Dijk backs Salah to shine in Kiev showpiece

  • Virgil van Dijk: He (Mohamed Salah) is a nightmare for defenders, creating and scoring goals.”
  • Van Dijk: “To be calm, that is sometimes a very good thing to have, but personally sometimes I have to learn, too.”

LIVERPOOL: As Mohamed Salah prepares for a career-defining period, Virgil van Dijk is confident his Liverpool teammate’s star will only shine brighter on football’s biggest stages.
The Liverpool frontman will face-off with Ballon d’Or rival Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid tonight in the Champions League final before heading off to a debut World Cup with Egypt.
And having witnessed an incredible season that has brought 44 goals — a record 32 in the Premier League ­— for the Egyptian star, Reds defender van Dijk says he has the all-round ability to strike fear into the reigning European champions and international sides.
“He is a nightmare for defenders, creating and scoring goals,” said the Dutchman of the 25-year-old Salah. “It’s complete for him.
“He’s like everyone in our squad, laidback, calm, no big personalities and egos. We work hard for each other and just want to be better.
“I think he can definitely be the best in Europe, but there are two other players who are pretty good at the moment as well (in Ronaldo and Lionel Messi). I hope for Mo it happens because he deserves it. He is that kind of player to light up a World Cup as well.”
While all eyes will be on Salah and Ronaldo as potential match-winners in Kiev, van Dijk, 26, will have a major role on the defensive front.
The game will offer the center-back the chance to prove he was worth the £75 million ($100 million) it cost to sign him from Southampton in January.
“Any player who arrived at this club, they want to play in these games, they want to be under this kind of pressure, they want to get trophies,” he said.
“I don’t think I have been bought to win the Champions League final. I have been bought to hopefully get the best out of myself and the best out of the team with the help of everyone else.
“To be calm, that is sometimes a very good thing to have, but personally sometimes I have to learn, too.
“Against Manchester City in the away game (of the quarter final) I was a little bit too calm in the beginning, for example. That is something I have to learn as well. To be in the final right now, it has been a crazy journey.”
Watching last season’s final between Real and Juventus, van Dijk realized just how much he wanted to be a part of the competition — and why Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool were the club for him, despite interest from City.
“I never really go to big games to watch as a fan, but I was in Cardiff,” he recalled. “The sponsors (Sony) hooked us up with two fantastic seats and it was two hours from where I used to live, so we thought, ‘let’s go.’
“From the moment I got there a lot of people in hospitality were Liverpool fans and they were saying, ‘join, please join.’


‘Being able to play football is not enough’ — Chiellini urges players to study

Updated 17 October 2018
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‘Being able to play football is not enough’ — Chiellini urges players to study

  • Giorgio Chiellini: Studying helped me relieve some of the pressure in the world of football, and kept my brain sharp
  • Chiellini: As a footballer, you need to start thinking about life after football at the beginning of your career, not at the end

MILAN: Italy and Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini urged players to think more about their careers after football on Wednesday as he helped launch an education campaign led by global players’ union FIFPro.
Chiellini, 34, studied for a degree in economics and a Masters in business administration at Turin University at the same time as winning seven straight Serie A titles with Juventus from 2012.
“Studying helped me relieve some of the pressure in the world of football, and kept my brain sharp,” said the Juventus captain.
But only 13 percent of footballers have a higher education compared to 53 percent of men in Europe, says FIFPro.
“As a footballer, at 20 years old you feel indestructible and able to do anything in football,” said Chiellini.
“But at 35 your career is more or less finished. You then have the rest of your life in front of you, and just being able to play football is not enough.
“Only a few players manage to find a job in football. There’s also the risk of depression, and there are many former players with financial problems because they have not thought about what they are going to do, they have not opened their minds by studying.”
The towering defender from Pisa started his career at Tuscany club Livorno before joining Roma, with a season spent on loan at Fiorentina before signing for Juventus in 2005.
“As a footballer, you need to start thinking about life after football at the beginning of your career, not at the end,” added Chiellini who has also played 99 times for Italy.
“If you are not sharp in matches you can’t make the quick decisions that you need to reach the top level in football.”
As part of the ‘Mind the Gap’ campaign, player development managers (PDMs) will be appointed at several national player associations to help footballers prepare for life after retirement.
“The statistics show each year professional footballers are not as prepared as other workers to enter the employment market outside football,” FIFPro secretary general Theo van Seggelen said.
“With this campaign, we are encouraging players and player associations to work together to correct this.”