Virgil van Dijk said he almost died during his early playing days in Holland – as one former coach tells the story of how an illness left the defender a ‘shrivelled’ person.

The Liverpool star is become a colossus at Anfield after his world record £75m move from Southampton in January.

But in an eye-opening interview with FourFourTwo, it has been revealed how he had to undergo an emergency operation during his time at Groningen in 2012 – with the Dutchman even writing a WILL after the procedure took place.

Van Dijk, then just 20, had been in brilliant form for the Eredivisie side in the 2011-12 season – his first full senior campaign.

But after playing the full game in a narrow victory over Excelsior, Van Dijk was taken ill – as recalled by Dick Lukkien, Groningen reserve coach at the time report the Liverpool Echo.

“Virgil was ill, but we didn’t know the extent,” he told FourFourTwo. “At first we thought he had the flu.

“He was at home for a few days and in lots of pain. He went to the local hospital but they couldn’t find anything, so sent him back home again.

“The pain got worse and when his mum travelled to see him, she realised how bad the situation was.

“She took him to another hospital, which turned out to be crucial.”

Van Dijk was suffering from appendicitis, peritonitis and a kidney infection, leading to an operation straight away.

The centre-back would miss the final two months of that season before returning to the first-team the following year, playing 32 league games and earning a move to Celtic the following summer.

Virgil van Dijk reacts during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at Emirates Stadium on November 3, 2018
Virgil van Dijk reacts during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at Emirates Stadium on November 3, 2018
(Image: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

It took a lot hard work however, as Lukkien explains.

“I was shocked,” he added. “When he returned to the club, he had changed from a big man into a shrivelled person. Luckily he managed to recover quite quickly.”

Speaking not long after the surgery in 2012, Van Dijk recalled how scared he was – and how he even planned for the very worst.

“I still remember lying in that bed,” he said. “The only thing I could see were tubes dangling out of me. My body was broken and I couldn’t do anything.

“At such a moment, the worst scenarios were whizzing around your head.”

He added: “My life was at risk. My mum and I prayed to God and discussed possible scenarios. At some point I had to sign some papers. It was a kind of testament.

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“If I died, a part of my money would go to my mum. Of course, nobody wanted to talk about it, but we had to do that.

“It could have been over.”

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