Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk finally returned to action over nine months after his serious knee injury by coming off the bench in a friendly against Hertha Berlin on Thursday,
It was not quite the return he would have been hoping for as Jurgen Klopp's side were beaten 4-3 in a rusty performance, but the sight of the towering Dutchman coming on in the 69th minute as a substitute alongside Joe Gomez, who also missed most of the last campaign through injury, would have lifted the spirits of Liverpool fans around the world.
Van Dijk has been unable to play since Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford clattered into him in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park in a 2-2 draw back in October, leading to the defender tearing the cruciate ligament in his right knee and being forced to undergo surgery.
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He missed the rest of the season and his loss had a huge impact on the then champions, who suffered a number of other injuries in defence which led to a poor run of results before they turned things around at the end of the campaign to finish third.
Van Dijk took to Twitter after making his long-awaited return to action, thanking those who had helped him on the road to recovery.
"285 days ago, I started on a journey back towards playing," he wrote.
"It’s hard to express how I am feeling, but it’s important to me that I say I feel blessed to have had the support of so many incredible people.
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"The surgeon, my physios, coaches and staff who have been with me in my corner since day one. My teammates for giving me energy and keeping my head up.
"The fans for their love, support and encouragement. And most of all, my family because without them, I’d be nothing. Thank you. The work doesn’t stop now. It’s only just starting. We keep going!"
Gomez also got his first taste of action of 2021, having injured a knee tendon back in November during training with England.
Hertha went 2-0 up in the first half but goals from Sadio Mane and Takumi Minamino pulled the Premier League side level before halftime.
Former Manchester City forward Stevan Jovetic struck a double after the break, with Van Dijk at fault for one of the goals, to restore Hertha's lead before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replied for Liverpool late on.
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