Virgil van Dijk has won the 2018/19 UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award.
The Dutch international beat off competition from three-time UEFA Men’s Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo and two-time winner Lionel Messi. The 28-year-old centre-back received the trophy on stage in Monaco during the UEFA Champions League group stage draw.
The Top Ten
1 Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool & Netherlands) – 305 points
3 Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus & Portugal) – 74 points
5 Sadio Mané (Liverpool & Senegal) – 51 points
6 Mohamed Salah (Liverpool & Egypt) – 49 points
7 Eden Hazard (Chelsea/Real Madrid & Belgium) – 38 points
8= Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax/Juventus & Netherlands) – 27 points
8= Frenkie de Jong (Ajax/Barcelona & Netherlands) – 27 points
10 Raheem Sterling (Manchester City & England) – 12 points
Why did Van Dijk win the vote?
Following Liverpool’s 2018 final defeat by Real Madrid, Van Dijk had every reason for nerves ahead of the 2019 decider, but his concentration did not waver. He shut out the opposition and was named man of the match as his side edged out Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid.
Fearless since arriving from Southampton in January 2018, Van Dijk kept more clean sheets than any defender in Europe’s top five leagues in 2018/19. While Liverpool fell narrowly short in the Premier League, his solid presence (and occasional goalscoring efforts) provided the platform for a sixth European Cup.
Season in Numbers
Honours: UEFA Champions League winner, UEFA Nations League runner-up, English Premier League runner-up, PFA Players’ Player of the Year.
UEFA Champions League Appearances: 12 Goals: 2 Assists: 2
Domestic league Appearances: 38 Goals: 4 Assists: 2
How Van Dijk was chosen
The jury comprised the 80 coaches of the clubs that participated in the group stages of the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League (32) and UEFA Europa League (48), along with 55 journalists selected by the European Sports Media (ESM) group, one from each of UEFA’s member associations.
Van Dijk after Champions League final win Jury members picked their top three players, with the first receiving five points, the second three and the third one. Coaches were not allowed to vote for players from their own team.
Van Dijk Testimonials
“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 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
What is the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award?
For this award, players in Europe, irrespective of nationality, were judged according to their performances over the whole season in all competitions – both domestically and internationally – at either club or national team level.
Roll of Honour*
2018/19 – Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool & Netherlands)
2017/18 ─ Luka Modrić (Real Madrid & Croatia)
2016/17 ─ Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid & Portugal)
2015/16 ─ Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid & Portugal)
2014/15 ─ Lionel Messi (Barcelona & Argentina)
2013/14 ─ Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid & Portugal)
2012/13 ─ Franck Ribéry (Bayern & France)
2011/12 ─ Andrés Iniesta (Barcelona & Spain)
2010/11 ─ Lionel Messi (Barcelona & Argentina)
*Known as the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award from 2010/11 to 2015/16 inclusive.
In this Dutch name, the family name is van Dijk, not Dijk.
Virgil van Dijk (Dutch pronunciation: [vɑn ˈdɛik]; born 8 July 1991) is a Dutch professional footballer who plays as a centre-back for English Premier League club Liverpool and captains the Netherlands national team.
After beginning his professional career with Groningen, he moved to Celtic in 2013, where he won the Scottish Premiership and was named in the PFA Scotland Team of the Year in both of his seasons with the club, also winning the Scottish League Cup in the latter. In September 2015, he joined Premier League side Southampton before signing for Liverpool in January 2018 for £75 million, a world record transfer fee for a defender at the time. Van Dijk was involved in reaching the 2018 UEFA Champions League Final during his first spring at Liverpool. In his first full season at the club Van Dijk was named the PFA Player of the Year and the Premier League Player of the Season for the 2018–19 season. Van Dijk starred as Liverpool won the 2019 UEFA Champions League Final where he was named man of the match.
Van Dijk made his international debut for the Netherlands in 2015 and became captain of his country in 2018. Considered to be one of the best defenders in the world, he is known for his strength, leadership and aerial ability.
Early Life and Career
Van Dijk was born in Breda to a Dutch father and Surinamese mother. During his teenage years, he combined his time playing at the Willem II academy with a part-time job as a dishwasher. Having previously and unsuccessfully featured as a right-back, van Dijk was shifted into a central defensive position in 2008, aged 17, after he grew in height by around 18 centimetres. Despite the positional shift and van Dijk’s physical growth, Willem II’s reserve manager at the time Edwin Hermans believed he had “too many limitations” which prevented him from breaking into the first team.In 2010, he was scouted by former Dutch international Martin Koeman, who was working for FC Groningen at the time, and he ended up completing a free transfer to the club in the same year.
Van Dijk initially struggled to break into Groningen’s first team with club staff believing he was “overtired” after extensive playing time with Willem II’s academy and reserve sides. He made his professional debut for the club on 1 May 2011, coming on as a 72nd-minute substitute for Petter Andersson during a 4–2 victory against ADO Den Haag. On 29 May, and against the same opposition, he made his first start for Groningen and scored his first professional goals, netting twice in a 5–1 win in a UEFA Europa League play-off match.
During the 2011–12 Eredivisie season, Van Dijk made 23 league appearances for the Eredivisie team, and scored his first regular-season goal during the club’s 6–0 victory over Feyenoord on 30 October 2011. He suffered a personal setback during the campaign, however, as soon after his 20th birthday he was admitted to hospital with peritonitis and kidney poisoning. Van Dijk later revealed that he had been close to dying as a result of the medical emergency and that the hospital had even gone so far as to ask him to sign a “sort of will” in the event of his passing.
He did, however, return to the field for Groningen and continued to impress for the club the following season. At the end of the campaign, and with Van Dijk having “outgrown” the club, he was offered to a number of bigger Eredivisie clubs, including Ajax, all of whom elected not to sign him. Instead, in June 2013, he joined Scottish side Celtic.
On 21 June 2013, Van Dijk signed with Celtic for a fee of around £2.6 million, on a four-year deal including a 10% selling-on fee for Groningen. He made his debut on 17 August, replacing Efe Ambrose for the final 13 minutes of a 2–0 Scottish Premiership win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie Stadium. A week later, he made his first start, in a 2–2 draw with Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Celtic Park. On 9 November, Van Dijk scored his first Celtic goals, heading one in each half of a 4–1 win against Ross County. After a solo run, he scored within five minutes the only goal of a victory over St Johnstone on 26 December.
Van Dijk scored again on 26 January 2014, in a 4–0 win versus Hibernian for Celtic’s 11th consecutive league win. On 25 February, he was sent off after 13 minutes of an eventual 2–1 loss at Aberdeen, for a professional foul on Peter Pawlett; it was Celtic’s first defeat of the season. With Celtic having already won the league, Van Dijk netted again on 7 May to put his team 3–1 up away to St Johnstone, in an eventual 3–3 draw. He was one of three Celtic players named in the PFA Scotland Team of the Year. Van Dijk was nominated for the PFA Scotland Players’ Player of the Year award, but lost out to fellow Celtic player Kris Commons
Van Dijk playing for Celtic in 2015
On 22 July 2014, Van Dijk and Teemu Pukki each scored twice in a 4–0 home win over KR in a UEFA Champions League qualifier, putting their team into the next round 5–0 on aggregate. His first goal of the Premiership season came on 9 November, finishing from Stefan Johansen’s last-minute corner for a 2–1 win at Aberdeen. Three weeks later, Van Dijk scored the first and last goals of Celtic’s 4–0 win versus Heart of Midlothian in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup. Four days after that, his sixth goal of the season was enough for victory in a home match against Glasgow neighbours Partick Thistle.
Van Dijk was again on target on 21 January 2015, opening a 4–0 home win over Motherwell. On 26 February, he was sent off in the 36th minute against Inter Milan for a foul on Mauro Icardi, as Celtic lost 1–0 on the night, 4–3 on aggregate in the last 32 of the UEFA Europa League. He was again sent off on 8 March in the Cup quarter-final away to Dundee United at Tannadice Park, receiving a red card after eleven minutes for a confrontation with Calum Butcher. His suspension for the following week’s Scottish League Cup Final was overturned on appeal, as was that of Paul Paton, who was sent off when mistaken for Butcher. Van Dijk played the full 90 minutes of the final at Hampden Park, which Celtic won 2–0. On 18 March, Celtic’s third consecutive match against Dundee United, Van Dijk scored in the last minute to confirm a 4–0 win in a Cup replay.
On 19 April, Celtic contested the Cup semi-final against Inverness at Hampden, and Van Dijk opened the scoring with a free kick. After the dismissal of goalkeeper Craig Gordon, Celtic fell 3–2, ending their chance of a treble. Three days later, again from a free kick, he confirmed a 2–1 win away to Dundee. His team again won the league, and Van Dijk was included in the league’s Team of the Season for the second consecutive campaign. He was again shortlisted for the PFA Scotland Players’ Player award, but lost out to another team mate, this time Stefan Johansen.
Van Dijk was reportedly “considering his future” in Glasgow after Celtic were knocked out of the 2015–16 UEFA Champions League in the qualifying rounds to Malmö of Sweden.
On 1 September 2015, Van Dijk signed a five-year contract with Premier League club Southampton, managed by Ronald Koeman, for a reported £13 million transfer fee.
He made his debut for Southampton on 12 September in a 0–0 draw against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns. Two weeks later, Van Dijk marked his third Premier League appearance with his first goal for the club, which came in the form of a header in the 11th minute to put Southampton in front, following a set-piece from James Ward-Prowse in a 3–1 home win over Swansea City. On 7 May 2016, Van Dijk signed a new six-year contract with the Saints.
On 22 January 2017, he was named team captain of Southampton, after the departure of José Fonte. On the same day, he suffered an ankle injury against Leicester City. This ruled him out of the 2017 EFL Cup Final, which Southampton lost to Manchester United at Wembley Stadium.
After a successful 2016–17 season at Southampton, Van Dijk was subject to interest from Liverpool, who apologised to Southampton for an illegal approach for the player after having reportedly made clear his interest in a move to Liverpool. On 7 August 2017, Van Dijk handed in a transfer request to Southampton and released a statement along with it, emphasising his wish to join a different club in the transfer window.
Van Dijk remained with Southampton for the start of the 2017–18 season and made his first appearance since being injured in January, coming on as a late substitute in a 1–0 victory at Crystal Palace on 26 September. He made what turned out to be his final appearance for Southampton on 13 December 2017, in a 4–1 home defeat to Leicester. It was also his last appearance in any of Southampton’s matchday squads, as he was omitted from the squad for the rest of his tenure at the club in light of speculation surrounding his future.
On 27 December 2017, it was announced that Van Dijk would join Liverpool when the winter transfer window opened on 1 January 2018 for a reported fee of £75 million. Former club Celtic would receive 10% of Van Dijk’s transfer fee, due to a sell-on clause placed in his Southampton contract. Southampton claimed the undisclosed transfer fee would constitute a world record fee in football for a defender.
He made his debut for Liverpool on 5 January in the third round of the FA Cup and scored the winning goal with a late header in a 2–1 victory against local rivals Everton. In doing so, he became the first player since Bill White in 1901 to score on his debut in the Merseyside derby. Van Dijk and Dejan Lovren built a strong partnership at the heart of Liverpool’s defence, with the Dutchman being credited for improving Liverpool’s previous defensive issues.
Van Dijk was included in the UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season, despite playing just half of the season in the Champions League, with the UEFA Technical Observers saying: “Van Dijk arrived at Anfield and provided composure and stability in the competition’s knockout stages.” Van Dijk played the full 90 minutes in the 2018 UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid, which Liverpool lost 1–3. Van Dijk played 22 games in all competitions in his first season with the club, scoring 1 goal.
On 20 August 2018, Van Dijk was voted Man of the Match by BBC Sport and Sky Sports for his performance in a 2–0 win over Crystal Palace. Van Dijk received the Liverpool Standard Chartered Player of the Month award for his performances in August. On 2 December, Van Dijk was awarded an assist for the winning goal in a derby match against city rivals Everton. Liverpool won 1–0 thanks to Divock Origi’s 96th minute goal, set up by a Van Dijk volley and a subsequent error from Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. The Dutchman was ultimately awarded the PFA Player of the Month for November 2018. On 21 December, Van Dijk scored his first goal in the Premier League for Liverpool in a 2–0 away win against Wolverhampton Wanderers. The Dutchman continued his impressive form in the 2018–19 season by winning the Premier League Player of the Month prize for December 2018.
On 27 February 2019, Van Dijk scored twice in a 5–0 win against Watford. The following month, he scored once – his first goal in the Champions League for the club – and assisted another in a 3–1 win over Bayern Munich. In doing so, he became the first player since Craig Bellamy in 2007 to score and assist a goal for Liverpool in a knock-out stage match away from home in the competition.
On 20 April, he was one of six players nominated for the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award alongside teammate Sadio Mané. Four days later, he was named in the PFA Team of the Year alongside Liverpool teammates, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mané and Andrew Robertson. On 28 April 2019, he was named the PFA Player of the Year. Following Liverpool’s 2–0 victory over Tottenham in the 2019 UEFA Champions League Final on 1 June, van Dijk was named UEFA’s Man of the match.
Van Dijk made his full international debut for Netherlands on 10 October 2015, in a 2–1 victory away from home against Kazakhstan in a UEFA Euro 2016 qualifier.
He was awarded the captaincy of his country by manager Ronald Koeman on 22 March 2018, and his first match as captain was a 1–0 home friendly defeat by England the next day. On 26 March, he scored his first international goal to conclude a 3–0 win over European champions Portugal at the Stade de Genève. On 13 October, he scored in a 3–0 win over 2014 World Cup champions Germany in the UEFA Nations League.
Style of Play
Van Dijk is a physically strong, right-footed centre-back, who usually features on the left-hand side of central defence, although he can also play as a right-sided centre-back. He is gifted with pace, good technique, and an eye for goal, and is an effective set-piece taker. Regarding his ability, former Celtic teammate Kris Commons commented that van Dijk was “comfortable on the ball”, also noting that “He had good technique and a wonderful right foot. He was good on set-pieces, some of the free-kicks he scored for Celtic are absolute wonders. He could read the game well. He had an aura about him, a confidence, because I think he knew he was good.”
Neil McGuinness, senior scout at Celtic when Van Dijk was signed, called him “everything you would want if you could create a profile of the ideal central defender”, praising him as a “very smooth ball-playing defender” who possesses aerial prowess, skills from dead ball situations, and “strong leadership qualities”, while commenting that since his move to England, he is “more tactically aware now […] his anticipation and timing has improved and he is a lot more of an all-rounder”. McGuinness believes Van Dijk’s “biggest problem” is that he “can switch off when the game is comfortable”.
Van Dijk features as the cover star of the champions edition of EA Sports’ FIFA video game FIFA 20.
Van Dijk commonly uses only his first name on the kit. According to his uncle Steven, this is because of a feud with his father.
As of match played 17 August 2019
Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
As of match played 9 June 2019
Appearances and goals by national team and year
As of match played on 9 June 2019. Netherlands score listed first, score column indicates score after each Van Dijk goal.
International goals by date, venue, cap, opponent, score, result and competition
Scottish Premiership: 2013–14, 2014–15
Scottish League Cup: 2014–15
UEFA Champions League: 2018–19; runner-up: 2017–18]
UEFA Super Cup: 2019
UEFA Nations League runner-up: 2018–19
PFA Scotland Team of the Year: 2013–14, 2014–15
Celtic FC Players’ Player of the Year: 2013–14
Southampton Player of the Season: 2015–16
UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season: 2017–18, 2018–19
FIFA FIFPro World XI 5th Team: 2018
Premier League Player of the Season: 2018–19
PFA Team of the Year: 2018–19 Premier League
PFA Player of the Month: November 2018
Premier League Player of the Month: December 2018
UEFA Team of the Year: 2018
Liverpool Fans Player of the Season Award: 2018–19
Liverpool Players’ Player of the Season Award: 2018–19
PFA Players’ Player of the Year: 2018–19
UEFA Nations League Finals Team of the Tournament: 2019]
Virgil van Dijk has established himself as one of the finest defenders in world football since joining Liverpool in January 2018.
The powerful Netherlands international, who combines a graceful reading of the game with a dominant physical skillset, helped the Reds clinch a sixth European Cup at the conclusion of his first full season with the club.
Victory over Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid secured a first piece of silverware at Liverpool for Van Dijk, who missed just 35 minutes of Premier League action in 2018-19 as Jürgen Klopp’s side finished second with a club-record 97 points.
He was an outstanding presence at the heart of the defence as the Reds eliminated Bayern Munich – against whom he scored in a crucial second-leg win in Germany – as well as FC Porto and FC Barcelona on the road to a second successive Champions League final.
And there was redemption in the showpiece as Van Dijk and co bounced back from their defeat by Real Madrid a year earlier to see off Spurs 2-0 and lift the trophy at Estadio Metropolitano.
Such was the No.4’s imperious form throughout the campaign, he was voted PFA Players’ Player of the Year by his peers and also collected the Premier League Player of the Season award.
The centre-back had served notice of his potential for consistency at the highest level during his opening half-season with the Reds, which began with a winner past Everton at Anfield and ended with that loss against Real in Kiev.
Van Dijk had previously built his reputation in the Premier League with Southampton following spells at Willem II, FC Groningen and Celtic.