Liverpool’s marquee defender Virgil Van Dijk was revealed as the winner of the prestigious ‘UEFA Men’s Player of the Year’ trophy in Monaco during the UEFA Champion’s League group stage draw. The 28-year-old centre-back beat a host of top players, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, three and two-time winners of the award, respectively.
The Dutch captain also helped Liverpool become European champions last season after a narrow loss to Real Madrid in the finals of the 2017-18 season. The tall, lanky defender has the most clean sheets among all the top European leagues in 2019-19.
His contributions for his national side were important as well after he led Netherlands to the finals of the inaugural UEFA Nations League. The Flying Dutchmen may have ultimately lost to Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, but his performances through the domestic as well as European season were enough to trump the usual winning duo of Ronaldo and Messi.
Van Dijk also beat fellow Liverpool teammates Alisson Becker, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah to the coveted trophy, with the trio finishing fourth, fifth and sixth in the top 10, respectively. Although the ‘Egyptian King’ Mohamed Salah scored a crucial goal in the finals at Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, it was Van Dijk’s solid presence at the back that kept Tottenham’s attack at bay to preserve a 2-0 lead, for which he was adjudged Man of the Match.
The jury comprised of the 80 club coaches that participated in the group stages of the recently concluded European season, along with 55 journalists selected by the European Sports Media (ESM) group — one from each of UEFA's member associations. Jury members picked their top three players, with the first receiving five points, the second, three, and the third, one.
Coaches were not allowed to vote for players from their own team. Virgil Van Dijk scored 305 points — a massive 98 points more than second-placed Lionel Messi, and 231 points above Cristiano Ronaldo. The iconic duo scored 207 and 74 points, respectively.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Valery Hache