Virgil van Dijk has insisted that he needs time to return to full fitness after he returned for Liverpool for the first time since October 2020 in the 3-0 victory over Norwich on Saturday.
The Dutchman sat out for most of last season since suffering knee ligament damage during the Merseyside derby with Everton in October 2020. But as he made his return, Van Dijk admitted it would require a lot of time and patience for him to get back to his best.
"Being back is not the closing of a chapter," said Van Dijk. "It is still getting there. I wanted to be out there. I wanted to be playing from the first match because I feel I need it and it will improve me. From my point of view, knowing my own body, there are plenty of things to improve but I am not a robot.
"I cannot be back to 100 per cent immediately. The thing is I have played and the first one was very emotional and very tough for many reasons. You visualise the game so many times in your head before you actually play.
"I was tired because of everything around the game. And it was sort of like a hurdle. I had to get over that, I felt like then it will come again. So that is what happened in my point of view. I kept training well and felt confident in my knee. It's been a tough road but I am just happy to be out there again."
Liverpool showed signs of their former selves against Norwich, but Van Dijk admitted they will not be carried away by a solitary success. He added: "To win the first game 3-0 is something we will sign for, but if you look at the game critically, there is a lot to improve. It is the start of the season and we will improve. That is how we hopefully get better and we will give it a go next week (against Burnley).
"I am proud of myself and proud of the people who helped me, like my wife and kids, and at the club. The first step is to get match fitness and be back to my best - but I am not a robot. I need games, time and repetition. I'm just lucky we have a fantastic manager who helps me."