Virgil van Dijk has confessed that Mohamed Salah's form may have been negatively impacted by the ongoing speculation surrounding his future at Liverpool.
Heading into the conclusion of last season, Salah was the subject of significant speculation as he approached the final 12 months of his contract, and his form appeared to take a drop-off as he netted just four times in Liverpool's final 20 games of the campaign.
Sadio Mane left the club but Salah opted to stay, putting pen to paper on a new three-year contract in early July, and he got this season off to the perfect start with a goal and an assist in Liverpool's Community Shield victory over Manchester City.
After the game, Van Dijk confessed that all the uncertainty surrounding his future may have taken its toll on Salah.
“I think he already showed his level already for the last three years," the centre-back said. "He’s under the microscope all of the time, he created that himself, he’s such a good player but he shows that consistently all the time in my opinion.
"At the end of the season, from maybe April until the end, there was a lot of talk about the contract and stuff, we’re all human beings and maybe that affected him a little bit unfortunately. Now everything is sorted, he’s playing with a free mind, he’s happy to be here and I think everyone else is happy too."
As well as supporting Salah, Van Dijk had some advice for new signing Darwin Nunez, who stole the show in the Community Shield with a superb second-half cameo.
"The transfer fee is not something you should think about," Van Dijk told the £85m man. "He just has to keep his head down, work hard and be an important player.
"I don't speak Spanish, so I don't speak with him yet! That's quite difficult at the moment but we have plenty of experienced players who speak to him at any chance that's possible. He learns a lot in training and sees how we want to play, how we defend and attack.
"He just has to focus on himself and the team. He has to improve, get settled in as quickly as possible and the way to do that is to learn in training.
"He shouldn't look at what others have to say about his performances. That's the key to success. If you perform then you'll be fine. Don't get distracted."