UEFA Men's Player of the Year nominee: the case for Van Dijk
Virgil van Dijk is on the three-man shortlist for the 2018/19 UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award. UEFA.com looks back over his stellar season.
Season in numbers
Achievements: UEFA Champions League winner, UEFA Nations League runner-up, English Premier League runner-up, PFA Players’ Player of the Year.
UEFA Champions League
UEFA.com reporter’s view: Matthew Howarth
Expectations were high when Van Dijk arrived at Anfield in January 2018, but few could have predicted the impact the Dutchman would have on Klopp’s side. A calming and physically imposing presence in the Reds’ back line, the 28-year-old not only kept more clean sheets than any defender in Europe’s top five leagues last season, he was also the only man to play more than 1,000 minutes of football without being dribbled past. The UEFA Champions League title – Liverpool’s first trophy under Jürgen Klopp – was the least Van Dijk and his team-mates deserved for a truly remarkable campaign.
Top three moments
1. The Oranje were seconds away from missing out on the UEFA Nations League Finals when Van Dijk fired past Manuel Neuer to prise the point they needed in their final group game away to Germany.
2. Level at 1-1 on aggregate away to Bayern in their UEFA Champions League round of 16 decider, Van Dijk rose majestically to head in James Milner’s corner and keep the Reds on course for a sixth European crown.
3. The UEFA Champions League final was the biggest game of his career and the defender rose to the occasion, producing a faultless display, keeping a clean sheet and picking up the man of the match award in Madrid.
What they say
“You could write a book about Virgil van Dijk’s strengths and abilities. He is still young, but he’s so mature.”
Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool manager
“The ‘Swagger Don’. Virgil is suave on and off the pitch. He makes everything just look easy, doesn’t he? When you’ve got him behind you, you’ve got that feeling of security. He’s been an absolute rock all season.”
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Liverpool midfielder
“He embodies the full picture of a defender: his radiance, the way he captains the group, his presence on the pitch, and also now the prizes – the Champions League was fantastic. He can be an example to anyone who wants to aspire to be the best.”
Ronald Koeman, Netherlands coach