Soon a Dutch company for Van Dijk in Liverpool: I want to show me

Sepp van den Berg is only twenty years old, but he can already look back on a special career. At the age of seventeen, the goalkeeper left Holland to play for the great Liverpool, who has now hired him for Preston North End. In a conversation with VoetbalPrimeur, Van den Berg talks about his time in England, where he played football with Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk, and his perspective at Liverpool.

In March 2018, Van den Berg made his first headlines: the centre-back made his debut for BEC Zwolle at the age of 16, visiting FC Groningen. The young international quickly grew into a major force in the PEC, which could not enjoy him for a long time: just over a year after his debut, Van den Berg left his hometown and signed a contract with the great Liverpool. “Of course it wasn’t always easy when I moved to another country when I was a 17-year-old boy,” he recalls in a conversation with this site. “I immediately started living on my own. At first it was hard sometimes, because you miss home.”

After his first months in England, Van den Berg felt more and more at home. On the sporting level, it went well: Van den Berg trained regularly with the Liverpool first team and earned time in a number of cup matches. “It may sound cliched, but it was a childhood dream,” said the defender from Overijssel. “When I just came, I was suddenly on the field with Mane, Salah and Van Dijk. A year ago I was watching them on TV. It’s really great that you can train with these guys.”

“It was very difficult to face these guys in training, they are the best in the world,” van den Berg continues. “Certainly if you play 11v11 in training and you face Mane or Salah… I don’t want to say it’s a nightmare, but it’s not very nice. It’s top level, but you want that too. This will only make you better.”

Van den Berg hugs Ki Jana Hofer after the cup match against Shrewsbury Town

“That was a key”
A year and a half after Van den Berg entered Liverpool, he temporarily left the club: red He loaned him to championship club Preston North End in early February for a year and a half. This gave Van den Berg the opportunity to spend flying hours in the tournament. “It’s different,” he says of England’s second tier. “It’s very physical, high pace, sixteen to sixteen and a lot of back and forth. It’s different from what we’re used to in Holland. That took some change.”

At Preston, Van den Berg quickly grew into a lasting power, which meant he could make strides. “I’ve noticed that I’ve really learned a lot, for sure,” says the former PEC player. “If you look at how physically I was when I came to England a couple of years ago and what it is now… this is really a world of difference. I am also improving in football, because I play a lot. The championship you have a lot of matches, so you take steps automatically. I am happy. so.”

A “very strange” meeting with Liverpool
At the end of October, a special match was scheduled for Van den Berg: with Preston, Liverpool met in the League Cup. “It was very strange. When I saw the draw, I wasn’t very happy right away, if I’m honest. When I was on the field during that match and I saw everyone again, it was also a little weird. After that I was able to just focus on the match. In the past it was great: I saw everyone and spoke to them again. I was also able to show myself to the Liverpool coaches again. It was a special experience and a match.”

His lease states that van den Berg may not take action against his actual employer. However, Liverpool made an exception. Preston lost 0-2, but Van den Berg still looked at the meeting with a sense of satisfaction. “Sure, I think we did well as a team. The 0-2 loss to Liverpool is not a shame, especially at the level we were at at the time (in September and October, Preston only had three wins). I was also satisfied with my personal performance. I played really well and was able to show myself. I can’t complain.”

Liverpool’s plan
At Liverpool, they are also satisfied with the development Van den Berg is going through. “From what I hear when I talk to them, they are positive at Liverpool,” said the goalkeeper. “They are happy because I play everything. I also came back to Liverpool last summer. Then people said I had a good period and they thought my development was good. So I hope to continue with that.”

The current runner-up in the Premier League has a Van den Berg plan ready when the lease term at Preston expires. “The goal is to play as much as possible at Preston this season. In the summer I will be back and I have to show what I can do at Liverpool in preparation. If I do well enough, there could be a place in the back for me. Otherwise, we will have to reconsider. For now, it’s going to be great this season, and then I’ll report back again in preparation. I hope to show everyone what I’ve captured in this year and a half.”

(Nordin’t Hart / VoetbalPrimeur)

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