Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk crowned UEFA Men’s Player of the Year 2018/2019. The 28-year-old Dutch International received the trophy on stage in Monaco during UEFA Champions’ League group stage draw.

Virgil winner

The center-back beat off competition from three-time UEFA Men’s Player of the year, Cristiano Ronaldo and two-time winner Lionel Messi. He is the first defender to win the award since the inaugural edition in 2010/11.

“I am proud to get this trophy. It’s a credit to everyone who has helped me,” said Van Dijk who won the Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the year award.

“I need to thank my team-mates. Without them, I would not have achieved what I have achieved. It’s been a long road and it’s part of my journey.”

Why Van Dijk won the vote

Van Dijk had every reason for nerves ahead of the 2019 decider following Liverpool’s 2018 final defeat by Real Madrid. His concentration did not waver. He shut out the opposition and pronounced man of the match as his side edged out Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid.

Since his arrival from Southampton in January 2018, Van Dijk kept more clean sheets than any other defender in Europe’s top five Leagues in 2018/19. While Liverpool narrowly fell short in their Premier League, Van Dijk’s presence and occasional goalscoring efforts provided a platform for a sixth European Cup.

How Van Dijk was chosen

The jury comprised 80 coaches from clubs that participated in the group stages of the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League (32) and UEFA Europa League (48). 55 journalists selected by the European Sports Media (ESM) group, one from each of UEFA’s member association were also members of the jury.

Jury members picked their top three players. The first received five points, the second, three points while the third received one point. Coaches were prohibited from voting from their team.

Van Dijk testimonials

“Van Dijk deserves it. He has been a breath of fresh air in so many ways. Not just in the way he plays but how he acts too. He is a leader but without having to shout. He is a center-back that does not need to tackle,” Spanish football expert Guillem Balague said.

“He is somebody that has changed, seeing the statistics and results, the way Liverpool defend. He is the ultimate modern center-back. “

The Italian football expert, Mina Rzouki said,” there is no argument about it. Defenders tend to make the difference in teams and sometimes are not recognized for it. Van Dijk transformed Liverpool in so many ways and his assuredness gave them the platform to play their attacking football.”