Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk has ruled himself out of next month’s European Championship, saying he wanted to use the offseason to complete his rehabilitation from a serious knee injury.

The Liverpool center back has been out since October after damaging his anterior cruciate ligaments in a challenge with Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in a Premier League game.

“I feel physically it is the right decision that I’ve decided not to go to the Euros and to go into my last phase of rehab during the offseason,” Van Dijk said in an interview with Liverpool’s website on Wednesday.

“The full focus will be on preseason with the club and that’s a realistic goal, so I am looking forward to that. Obviously I am very gutted to miss the European Championship and leading out my own country there, but things have been like they have and I have to accept it.”

Van Dijk said he is looking at the bigger picture, including helping the Netherlands qualify for next year’s World Cup in Qatar.

“I am quite mature and I know by now what could be a good decision,” he said, “and I think this decision has definitely been the right one, in my opinion, to give my body and my knee a little bit more extra time to get ready for hopefully a big, big 18 months at least with the club but also with my country because we’re trying to go to the next tournament after this as well and that starts in September.”


Van Dijk said he is on schedule to take part in preseason training with Liverpool.

The next Premier League season starts Aug. 14.

Van Dijk’s injury derailed Liverpool’s bid to retain the Premier League title, especially with fellow center backs Joe Gomez and Joel Matip also succumbing to long-term injuries.

Jurgen Klopp’s team is in sixth place with less than two weeks of the campaign remaining and is unlikely to finish in the top four, which would mean missing out on next season’s Champions League.

Klopp isn’t even sure Van Dijk will be fit for the start of next season.

“It is one of the most serious injuries you can get,” Klopp said. “The injury he has has an average of 11 months. It happened in October so that is September. The plan is he can start a preseason with us but even that is not sure.”

“The Euros just came at the wrong moment. The good news for Holland is he will be 100% when he comes back … He felt the start of rehab was really tough, pain like crazy. When you overcome that, then you make big steps and get more positive and then there is a situation. I never wanted to cut the Euros off but, in common sense, there is no chance.”


Klopp said Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has yet to return to training after a groin injury that the midfielder sustained in February.

Henderson will miss Liverpool’s remaining four league games, Klopp said, and could be a doubt for the Euros with England.

“That is a decision between (England coach) Gareth (Southgate) and Hendo,” Klopp said.


More AP soccer: and