Virgil van Dijk has been named the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year for 2018-19, seeing off competition from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Liverpool defender was crowned at the ceremony for the Champions League group stage draw on Thursday in Monaco.
Van Dijk kept five clean sheets in 12 appearances as well as scoring two goals and contributing two assists as the Merseyside club lifted the European Cup for a sixth time.
He is the first defender to win the award since the inaugural edition in 2010-11, with Messi and Ronaldo claiming five of the previous eight awards between them, and Andres Iniesta (2012), Franck Ribery (2013) and Luka Modric (2018) completing the winners’ list.
A revelation for Liverpool since joining from Southampton in January 2018 in a £75m deal, the Netherlands centre-back was an integral part of the side that won European football’s top prize last season and pushed eventual Premier League champions Manchester City all the way in the title race.
“I’m very proud to get this trophy. It’s credit to everyone who has helped me,” said Van Dijk, who won the Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year award and BBC Sport website’s player of the year for 2018-19.
“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.”