How Liverpool titan Virgil van Dijk has delivered on special promise to Nathan Ake

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Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake has hailed the influence of Virgil van Dijk on his development as he prepares to go up against his international team-mate at the Vitality Stadium. The Liverpool colossus finished second to Lionel Messi earlier this week in this year’s Ballon d’Or voting, as he hoped to become the first defender to win the prestigious award since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.

Yet despite his shortcomings, Ake has paid tribute to his compatriot for specialist guidance on the training field at the KNVB Campus with Holland, which has helped him flourish in Ronald Koeman’s exciting set-up and the Premier League.

“He’s a fantastic player and man. He’s a very good guy off the pitch as well,” the 24-year-old said at the launch of Need For Speed Heat in London.

“Everyone knows how he plays but one of his biggest qualities is that he likes to help people.

“Especially on the pitch, when I’m playing with him he’s trying to give you instructions to help each other positionally and to provide cover.

“Obviously he is a big leader for the team so to learn from somebody like that is perfect for me.

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Nathan Ake has opened up on advice from Virgil van Dijk ahead of Bournemouth's clash with Liverpool

Nathan Ake has opened up on advice from Virgil van Dijk ahead of Bournemouth’s clash with Liverpool (Image: GETTY)

“I try to take everything I can from his game that will help me improve and become a better player.”

Those words suggest that Van Dijk has fulfilled a promise he made to Ake after Liverpool beat Bournemouth 3-0 at Anfield in April 2018.

“As captain of Holland, I hope for him to grow as a player and as a human being,” said Van Dijk.

“I hope he can achieve as much as possible and, when we are with the national team, I can help him as well. He is doing very well and has so much potential.”

One month prior to that, the pair marshalled the Netherlands to a clean sheet in a resounding 3-0 friendly win over Portugal, offering a glimpse into the future of the Oranje backline.

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Nathan Ake has been learning from Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk while on international duty

Nathan Ake has been learning from Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk while on international duty (Image: GETTY)

Virgil van Dijk has taken Nathan Ake under his wing with the Netherlands

Virgil van Dijk has taken Nathan Ake under his wing with the Netherlands (Image: GETTY)

Ake will have his work cut out though when he tries to keep Liverpool’s holy trinity of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino at bay on the South Coast.

Liverpool have scored 14 goals without response in their last four meetings with the Cherries.

While Jurgen Klopp’s side are often lauded for their ruthless streak in front of goal, Ake believes Van Dijk’s arrival on Merseyside marked their transition into defensive powerhouses.

He added: “They had the best defence in the league last season and have reached two Champions League finals, so I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”

Stopping Liverpool in their tracks would certainly strengthen Ake’s case to pip Matthijs de Ligt to a starting spot alongside Van Dijk at next summer’s European Championships.

The Netherlands have been handed a handsome draw ahead of next summer’s tournament alongside Ukraine, Austria and the winner of Play-off Winner D (Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia and Kosovo) in Group C.

Koeman’s side will then face a third placed team in the Round of 16 and will also avoid the big boys should they make the quarter-finals.

The former Everton and Southampton boss led Holland to the Nations League final earlier this year and has completely reinvigorated the fortunes of the national side since taking over the reigns in February 2018.

“He’s very good. I think every since he came in he’s been doing brilliant with the squad,” Ake said.

Nathan Ake was speaking at the launch of Need For Speed Heat

Nathan Ake was speaking at the launch of Need For Speed Heat (Image: EA Sports)

Nathan Ake was speaking at the launch of Need For Speed Heat

Nathan Ake was speaking at the launch of Need For Speed Heat (Image: EA Sports)

“Obviously he knows the game, he’s played so many and he’s a big figure in Holland so I think that obviously helps.

“He’s played the position as well so he knows it well and he’s always trying to help the squad.

“It’s your country so it’s obviously going to be different [to club football]. It’s one of the biggest honours you can ever achieve as a player.”

Nathan Ake was speaking at the London launch of Need For Speed Heat, which is OUT NOW for Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC.

Order your copy in time for Christmas at: https://www.ea.com/en-gb/games/need-for-speed/need-for-speed-heat

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