Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk is set to undergo knee surgery after suffering anterior cruciate ligament damage in the Merseyside derby.
Van Dijk suffered the injury after colliding with Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in the early stages of Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Goodison Park.
Pickford was saved from conceding a penalty – and possibly a red card – by a marginal VAR decision, which ruled Van Dijk’s shoulder was offside in the build-up to the collision.
The England goalkeeper could still have been sent off if VAR had recommended on-field referee Michael Oliver look at the incident again as players can be punished for serious foul play or violent conduct after the whistle is blown.
Van Dijk had to be substituted and was later sent for a scan, which revealed he would require surgery.
No time frame has been put on his return but club sources are reluctant to rule out a return this season.
Van Dijk released a statement on Sunday night, taking to social media to say: “This afternoon, I met with a leading consultant to start the process of planning the finer details of my rehabilitation following the incident yesterday. I’m now fully focused on my recovery and will do everything I can to be back as quickly as possible.
“Despite the obvious disappointment, I’m a firm believer that within difficulty lies opportunity and with God’s help I’m going to make sure I return better, fitter and stronger than ever before.
“In football, as in life, I believe everything happens for a reason and it’s important to try and keep level-headed whether going through the highs or the lows. With the support of my wife, kids and family and everyone at Liverpool, I’m ready for the challenge ahead.
“I’d like to thank everyone for the messages of support. It’s meant a huge amount to me and my family, and I’ll now be doing everything possible to support my team-mates in any way I can ahead of a big few weeks as I take my own recovery day by day. I’ll be back.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp questioned why no action was taken against Pickford for his challenge on the Netherlands defender.
“For me it was a clear penalty that I saw. Then obviously we saw the flag went up, so offside. I still thought it was worth a look on the foul but that didn’t happen,” said Klopp.
“We have no power there, we just sit here and you discuss it with me. You have to ask other people about that, not me. What can I say?”
Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara was also sent to hospital for a scan after the match after being injured by a tackle from Richarlison, which resulted in the Brazil forward being shown a straight red card late on.
The Spain international is thought to have suffered an impact injury but indications are that it is not serious.