After his injury, Virgil van Dijk can draw inspiration from a Liverpool player who almost lost a leg.


Just ask Virgil van Dijk, the defender from Liverpool, who is facing a lengthy rehabilitation after damaging the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee earlier this month.

There is no such thing as a good injury. But some are certainly worse than others.

Today is the anniversary of one of the most terrible injuries to a player in Liverpool’s history and it could serve as an inspiration to Virgil van Dijk as the defender begins his rehabilitation.

The French international was still adjusting to his new surroundings when he played for Liverpool for the 15th time in the Premier League for Blackburn Rovers.

Djibril Cisse had become the Reds’ club record when Gerard Houllier gave new coach Rafael Benitez the parting gift of the £14.5 million striker, who had come from Auxerre in the summer of 2004.

And today marks the anniversary of one of the most terrible deaths suffered by a Reds player in the modern era.

Cisse had broken the shin and calf bone in his left leg. And just how decisive the initial reaction was, would only become apparent when the player began his recovery.

The game ended 2-2, but the real drama came just before halftime when, while asking Rovers defender Jay McEveley for ball possession, Cisse caught his foot in the grass and crawled to the ground.

He tried to keep playing before falling back onto the field. The Liverpool medical staff watching from the dugout knew something bad had happened and the player was quickly taken to Ewood Park for immediate examination.

“They had to give me medication to relieve the pain and then they had to use their hands to pull my bones back into place. If they had waited until I arrived at the hospital, I might have lost my leg, it was that serious.

“When I was taken off the field, what they did next was so important to my career, what they did in those first moments was crucial,” Cisse later recalled. “My bones overlapped and I had no blood circulation in my foot.

Mark Waller, then a club doctor in Liverpool, said: “Djibril had a shortened, slightly bent lower leg and no pulse in his foot. There are a number of reasons for this, he could either have severed the artery or the broken bone could have pressed against the artery.

“If a player has a so-called comminuted fracture of his tibia and fibula, it is a potentially dangerous injury for him. I don’t want to dramatize it, but a number of players were unable to continue their football careers after this injury.

Nobody expected Cisse to play again this season.

Cisse rarely scored on a par with Benitez, but the following season he scored 19 goals in 54 games, including two in the UEFA Super Cup win over CSKA Moscow and a memorable goal in the FA Cup final against West Ham United.

However, thanks to rapid medical care, excellent rehab facilities and sheer blood spatter, less than six months later the French international made his comeback as a substitute in the quarter-final return leg of the Champions League with Juventus and played a string of cameos this season, culminating of course in his victory over AC Milan in Istanbul on penalties in the final penalty shoot-out of the European Cup.

However, another double leg fracture in May 2006 – this time in the right leg, however – cost him a place in France’s World Cup squad, as Liverpool were already negotiating with Marseille for a retirement that became permanent after a period of loan in 2007.

Despite the seriousness of Van Dijk’s problem, Liverpool is still hesitant to exclude the talismatic Dutchman for the season.


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