The Liverpool centre-half was crowned as the best player in the Premier League by his colleagues on Sunday evening after a stellar season.
Physically imposing, calm on the ball and a natural leader of men, Van Dijk is a worthy winner of the prestigious award.
However, it could have all been so different. While at Groningen in the Netherlands, the 27-year-old required life-saving surgery after a ruptured appendix caused appendicitis, peritonitis and a kidney infection.
His reserve team coach and mentor Dick Lukkien reveals just how close Van Dijk came to death.
“Virgil was ill, but we didn’t know the extent – at first we thought he had the flu,” Lukkien told FourFourTwo. “He was at home for a few days and in lots of pain.
“He went to the local hospital but they couldn’t find anything, so sent him back home again. The pain got worse and when his mum travelled to see him, she realised how bad the situation was.
“She took him to another hospital, which turned out to be crucial.”
After making his first team debut in May 2011, it became clear just how special Van Dijk was. During a Europa League qualifying game just a month later, the Dutchman scored twice while playing as an auxiliary forward.
Although he had been ambitiously targeting a move to La Liga, Van Dijk was now battling appendicitis, peritonitis and a kidney infection. Surgeons performed a life-saving operation, but he was still in serious danger.
“I still remember lying in that bed,” he recalled a few months later. “The only thing I could see were tubes dangling out from me.
“My body was broken and I couldn’t do anything. At such a moment, the worst scenarios are whizzing around your head. For the first time in my life, football was very much a side issue. My life was at risk.
“My mum and I prayed to God and discussed possible scenarios. At some point I had to sign some papers. It was a kind of testament. If I died, a part of my money would go to my mum.
“Of course, nobody wanted to talk about it, but we had to do that. It could have been over.”