Virgil van Dijk, has become the first defender, the first Premier League player, and the first Dutchman to win the prestigious UEFA Men’s Player of the Year Award. The Liverpool and Netherlands center back beat out Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo who were also shortlisted for the award.
Messi won the award in 2011 and 2015 and Ronaldo in 2014, 2016, and 2017. Other past winners include Andrés Iniesta 2012, Franck Ribery 2013, and Luka Modric in 2018.
Virgil van Dijk was voted man-of-the-match when Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 to win the 2019 Champions League and he also helped the Netherlands to the final four of the inaugural Nation League.
The 28-year-old Van Dijk started his career with Groningen in the Netherlands in 2011 before Celtic paid just over $3m for his transfer in the summer of 2013. Two years later he moved to Southampton of the Premier League for $16m and he made an immediate impression.
It did not take long for Liverpool to take an interest in van Dijk although initially Southampton rejected the Merseyside club’s approach. Nonetheless, Liverpool did sign van Dijk during the 2018 winter transfer window for a then world record fee of $90M for a defender.
Again he made an immediate difference and Liverpool’s defense instead of being a weakness was turned into a strength.