By Andrew Irumba
Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has been named UEFA Men’s Player of the Year, beating Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to the award.
Van Dijk was announced as the recipient of the honour at the draw for the 2019-20 Champions League group stage, in Monaco on Thursday August 29 evening.
The winner was decided by a vote of the 80 coaches of the teams in the group stages of the Champions League and Europa League in 2018-19, plus one journalist from each of UEFA’s 55 member associations.
Upon receiving the accolade, the 28-year-old said: “First of all, I think I need to thank all of my teammates. Without all of them and without the staff, I wouldn’t have achieved what I’ve achieved over the last year especially. I thank my family of course.” Virgil said.
He added “It’s been a long road but that’s part of my journey, it’s part of who I am. I needed it like this, I’m not a player who was 18 years old and had that rise straight away. I had to work hard for every step of the way – that’s part of me and I’m very happy about that.”
“I’m very proud to get this trophy and it’s all credit to everyone that’s helped me along the way.” he said.
The award tops a fantastic season for the Netherlands international, who was voted PFA Player of the Year for his displays at the heart of a Liverpool defence which conceded just 22 goals in the Premier League and finished the campaign with a sixth European Cup, beating Tottenham 2-0 in the final in Madrid.
Lucy Bronze was named UEFA Women’s Player of the Year. The defender has played for Lyon since 2017 and won the World Cup Silver Ball this summer, as the second-best player of the tournament in France.
Van Dijk’s Liverpool team-mate Alisson has also been honoured, he was named Champions League Goalkeeper of the Season at Thursday’s Champions League draw ceremony.
Frenkie de Jong won the best midfielder award, while Lionel Messi was named best forward.
Previously known as the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award, the Player of the Year award takes into account both club and national team competitions.
Created in 2011, it was initially aimed at reviving the European Footballer of the Year Award (Ballon d’Or), which was merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year Award in 2010 to become the FIFA Ballon d’Or.
Cristiano Ronaldo is the only player to win the award three times as well as twice in a row. Since its inception, the award has been won by Messi (2011, 2015), Andres Iniesta (2012), Franck Ribéry (2013), Ronaldo (2014, 2016, 2017) and Luka Modric (2018).