Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk was the big winner at UEFA’s awards ceremony on Thursday.
The Dutchman, who has been magnificent for the Reds since completing his £75 million move from Southampton in January 2018, took the UEFA Men’s Best Player award ahead of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo.
Van Dijk received 305 points from the coaches of every team in last season’s Champions League and Europa League, plus 55 journalists.
Messi came second with 207 points, while Ronaldo received 74 points to finish third.
"First of all, I think I need to thank all of my [Liverpool] teammates,” Van Dijk said after picking up the prestigious individual accolade.
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"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."
It goes without saying that Van Dijk wouldn’t have won this award if Liverpool hadn’t sealed the 2018-19 Champions League.
Jurgen Klopp’s side defeated Tottenham in the final, but it was their epic comeback against Barcelona in the semi-finals that will live longer in the memory.
There was one slightly awkward moment in Monaco on Thursday when Van Dijk was asked to talk about *that* comeback while sitting close to Messi, who was left devastated by Barça’s 4-0 defeat at Anfield.
The host said to Van Dijk: “Let’s go back to *that* semi-final - I’m sorry, Leo’s here, but hopefully he doesn’t understand too much English! - 3-0 down at the Camp Nou, you completely turned it around, it was an incredible game of football, there was so much drama. It was a gutsy performance; at what point did you believe you could turn that tie around and what role did Anfield play in that?”
You could tell that Messi understood enough to realise Van Dijk was being asked to talk about Barça’s most gut-wrenching evening of last season.
The Argentine legend looked around a bit awkwardly and must have been praying for Van Dijk to hurry up and stop talking.
Watch the clip here…
“Anfield played a massive role but after the game in Spain we all felt 3-0 wasn’t really the right result on the night but it was reality - we were 3-0 down and we had to overcome it by doing the unthinkable,” Van Dijk said.
“We had a crazy couple of days, actually, we travelled back in the week and we played Newcastle. We scored in the last couple of minutes to get the three points - we were also obviously in a tight title race at the time, as well - and we recovered from Newcastle and had one day to prepare for the Barcelona game.
“To actually do it was unbelievable. I think the man himself can say that the atmosphere was outstanding; it was something special then, everything obviously clicked on that evening as well - the goals were scored at the right time, it was just a fantastic evening.”
Liverpool fans enjoyed seeing Van Dijk talking about the comeback in front of Messi judging by their tweets. Here’s a selection of the best…News Now - Sport News