Virgil van Dijk has been named UEFA’s Player of Year, with the Liverpool centre-back beating competition from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to win.
Van Dijk produced a stunning first full campaign with the Reds in 2018/19, with his imperious performances at the back key to Champions League success and a record-breaking title challenge.
Liverpool conceded just 22 goals in the Premier League last term, while also amassing the most points in the club’s history (97), while defeating the likes of Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Tottenham to win the European Cup.
While Alisson, Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and others were arguably just as important, Van Dijk’s form was rightly acknowledged in UEFA’s annual awards.
Facing stiff competition from Messi and Ronaldo, Van Dijk received the majority vote to be named UEFA’s Player of the Year.
He becomes only the fifth different player to win the award since its inception in 2010, with Ronaldo (three) and Messi (two) dominating and Andres Iniesta, Franck Ribery and Luka Modric also winning once.
The Dutchman is also the first defender to be named best in Europe, with none making the top three before—though goalkeepers Manuel Neuer (2014) and Gianluigi Buffon (2017) have previously.
Van Dijk is also among the favourites to win the Ballon d’Or later this year, and if he wins would become the first defender to do so since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.
The focus for Liverpool’s No. 4 remains on the team, which is admirable given his outstanding individual quality, but he is certainly worthy of this prestigious honour.