Jurgen Klopp has dampened hopes that Virgil van Dijk could make a quicker than expected return from injury, insisting there is still a long way to go in the recovery process.
Van Dijk, who celebrates three years as a Liverpool player this month, hasn't played a minute since suffering knee ligament damage as the result of a wild challenge from Jordan Pickford in the Merseyside derby back in October.
While subsequent surgery was successful, the rehabilitation time for such an injury can take up to one year.
Recent videos posted on social media of Van Dijk returning to solo fitness training have given Liverpool fans cause for optimism that the Dutch defender, who won UEFA's Player of the Year in 2019, may be on track for a quicker than typical recovery.
However, while Klopp is pleased with his star's 'good progress' so far, he admits the reality is that Van Dijk is facing a long process.
Klopp said, via Sky Sports: "I have no problem with talking about Virgil van Dijk. It's very good but still a long way to go, that's this kind of injury.
"I'm happy when I see these videos, to be honest, because it just shows that he makes good progress. But it will still take a lot of time, that's how it is.
"I would like to say something else but these are the facts, unfortunately."
In addition to Van Dijk's unfortunate injury, regular centre back partner Joe Gomez also suffered a similarly serious knee issue and is likely to miss most if not all of the remainder of the 2020/21 campaign.
In the absence of Liverpool's first-choice pairing, Joel Matip - himself a frequent fitness concern - has partnered converted defender Fabinho, while academy products Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips have also seen unexpected game time.
Van Dijk also faces a battle to be fit for the summer's European Championships, with head coach Frank de Boer stating that the Liverpool star's place in the final 23 will depend on whether he makes his club return first.
“It will be a race against time," De Boer told Voetbal International. “I hope so, but it must be responsible. He will have to play before then, otherwise I can’t imagine Liverpool giving him up.“
Source : 90min