Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk says the Premier League champions face “challenging times” because “everyone wants to see you fall”.
The Netherlands centre-back played a key role as the Reds ended a 30-year wait for a league title last season.
In an exclusive interview with Eddie Hearn’s ‘No Passion No Point’ podcast, Van Dijk discussed racism, matches without fans and defending the title.
“I think trying to stay at the top is the hardest thing to do,” he said.
The 29-year-old told Hearn in episode one of the second season of his BBC Sounds podcast: “Everyone wants to see you fall when you reach the top. That is what life is about, especially these days.
“For me I want to give everything I have got until I retire and then have no regrets after.
“I don’t want any regrets afterwards, I think that would be the worst feeling you can have. It is going to be challenging times coming up. We are champions – something that took a while. We should enjoy the moment and go for it.”
‘I miss the away-day boos’ Hearn’s podcast – which featured the likes of singer Noel Gallagher and footballer Wayne Rooney in season one – aims to explore the mindset of people successful in their field.
Van Dijk tells the boxing promoter how he places importance on setting short-term goals and has done since he failed to break into the first team in his teenage years at boyhood club Willem II.
At the time he earned money away from football as a part-time dishwasher and admits he was “struggling” to secure a career in the game until he began to accomplish the small targets he had set himself, and duly earned moves to Groningen, Celtic and Southampton.
Since joining Liverpool for £75m in 2017 he has finished as runner-up in the Champions League in 2017-18 and Premier League in 2018-19, before winning each competition the following season.
He is now chasing his goals in the strange surroundings of empty stadiums because of the coronavirus pandemic and admits he “found it very difficult” to adjust at first.
“The fans can play a massive part in difficult times during games and also at good times in games,” explained Van Dijk.
“When you concede the fans will lift you and when you score they make the opponent go further away from you.
“It’s the same case for everyone, but for us in particular everyone knows how difficult it is to play at Anfield with the fans behind us. Hopefully things can change as soon as possible because we need fans.
“It lifts our performances at home but when you play away and the home fans turn against you – I like that. It gives you that motivation sometimes to do better. It’s something I definitely enjoy and that I miss.”
‘Chase dreams and don’t give up’ Van Dijk’s advice for those chasing goals in any field:
“You need a bit of luck but apart from that it’s about hard work. Commit yourself to your goals. You have to believe in yourself – if you don’t then no one will.
“Set short-term goals. You can have dreams and never stop dreaming as things are always possible. Enjoy the ride, the lows, the ups and the negative side as they can make you who you are.
“I have gone through many things in life but it made me who I am today. Give everything you have got, believe in yourself and never give up.”