Liverpool defender, Virgil van Dijk, has been named the UEFA Champions League Men’s Player of the Year ahead of Messi and Ronaldo.
The Dutchman Virgil van Dijk has won the UEFA Player of the Year prize ahead of Juventus forward, Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona captain, Lionel Messi.
Van Dijk had an impressive 2018/2019 campaign with the Reds, as they won the Champions League trophy and finished in second place in the Premier League behind Manchester City.
Van Dijk becomes the first-ever defender to win the award and the first player from the Premier League to do so.
The former Southampton star is the first defender ever to win the award. He also picked up the prize for the Uefa Champions League defender of the year.
“I’m very proud to get this trophy and it’s all credit to everyone that has helped me along the way.” The Dutch defender then revealed at the glitzy ceremony in Monaco before adding that he idolised Brazil legend, Ronaldinho, as he grew up.
“I looked up to a young player as Ronaldinho as he had so much joy in the way he played – with his tricks. “It was a great feeling to watch him play.”
The defender was a key figure for Liverpool as they lifted the Champions League for the sixth time.
He was named man of the match following his incredible performance during the 2-0 win over Spurs in the final.
Meanwhile, England’s Lucy Bronze won the award for Uefa Women’s Player of the Year. The right-back was in sublime form as the Lionesses reached the World Cup semi-finals earlier this summer.
Other awards went to; Liverpool Alisson Baker won the award for best goalkeeper, while Frenkie De Jong took home the prize for the best midfielder.
Appropriately, Messi was also crowned the Uefa forward of the year.
Why is the award a surprise to Virgil van Dijk?
While speaking at the ceremony in Monaco, Liverpool stalwart Virgil admitted he never expected to be in the race for the Ballon d’Or when he signed for the Reds.
He joined the Reds in January 2018 for a club-record fee of £75million.
Since his arrival, Van Dijk has vastly improved Liverpool’s defensive exerts and helped steer the Reds to Champions League glory last season.
The 28-year-old defender is now highly regarded as one of the world’s best and is the bookmakers favourite to become the first defender to win the Ballon d’Or since Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.
“Well, I think the Ballon d’Or is something for, I don’t know, I wouldn’t picture myself winning the Ballon d’Or when I made the transfer to Liverpool,” Virgil stated.
He added, “But everyone can have their opinion, everyone can say whatever they want. But obviously, when people are talking about it I am doing something well.”
By John Dalton Kigozi