The Best UEFA Player of 2019
The three-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo or the two-time winner Lionel Messi? None! The Best UEFA Player of 2019 Award goes to Virgil van Dijk!
Virgil van Dijk, 28, a Dutch defender of English club Liverpool was announced the best UEFA Men’s Player of 2019 during this season's Champions League group stage draw in Monaco. The other two football stars, namely Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, have won the award in 2011 and 2015, and in 2014, 2016 and 2017 respectively, while in 2018, Luka Modric, a Real Madrid's Croatian midfielder, was announced as the UEFA Men's Player of the Year.
How come did Van Dijk beat Ronaldo and Messi? He simply took his team to a different level, whereas Messi and Ronaldo were only able to keep their sides on the level they were already at. That’s why he won the Best UEFA Player of 2019 Award, and rightly so. He also took home the best defender award.
After picking up his award, Van Dijk said: “I need to thank my teammates, without them I would not have achieved what I have achieved. It’s been a long road and it’s part of my journey. I’m very proud to get this trophy. It’s credit to everyone who has helped me. I wasn't 18 and went straight to the top. I had to work every step of the way. I looked up to Ronaldinho a lot growing up. He enjoyed his play with all his tricks, it was a great feeling to watch him play.”
How Was the Best UEFA Player of 2019 Chosen?
The jury to vote for the Best UEFA Players of 2019 comprised of 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.
Both coaches and journalists were requested to select a shortlist of three players in each category by allocating respectively five points, three points and one point to each of them. The final result was based on the total number of votes cast by the coaches and the journalists.
Here are the results for each post:
GOALKEEPERS: Alisson Becker (Brazil – Liverpool FC); Hugo Lloris (France – Tottenham Hotspur FC); Marc-André ter Stegen (Germany – FC Barcelona)
DEFENDERS: Trent Alexander-Arnold (England – Liverpool FC); Matthijs de Ligt (Netherlands – AFC Ajax, now Juventus); Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands – Liverpool FC)
MIDFIELDERS: Frenkie de Jong (Netherlands – AFC Ajax, now FC Barcelona); Christian Eriksen (Denmark – Tottenham Hotspur FC); Jordan Henderson (England – Liverpool FC)
FORWARDS: Sadio Mané (Senegal – Liverpool FC); Lionel Messi (Argentina – FC Barcelona); Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal – Juventus)
Why Was Van Dijk Chosen as the Best UEFA Men’s Player of 2019?
UEFA has posted about 'why' van Dijk won the Best UEFA Player of 2019 Award. Here’s what they say: “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 goal-scoring efforts provided the platform for a sixth European Cup.”
Van Dijk in the Past Years
Van Dijk, an integral part of Liverpool who combines a graceful reading of the game with a dominant physical skillset, helped the Reds win the UEFA Champions League and Super Cup trophies in 2019. Last season, he had 50 appearances for Liverpool, scoring six goals and producing four assists. In the same season, he played 12 Champions League matches for Liverpool and stayed whole the match time on the pitch in all these matches. He only missed one match due to a yellow card suspension.
Besides winning the Best UEFA Player of 2019 Award, Van Dijk has also announced as the English Premier League Player of the 2018-2019 season. Victory over Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid secured the first piece of silverware at Liverpool for Van Dijk. 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.
In January 2018, Liverpool splashed out an unprecedented sum of £75million on Van Dijk, who played at that time as center-back in Southampton. The reaction to such a huge splash was mixed. “It sounds like a fantastic deal for Southampton,” said Gary Neville. Speaking on BBC 5 Live, Alan Shearer went even further: “Van Dijk is a good player, yes, but for £75million? No, he’s not worth it at all.”
Indeed, Van Dijk has more than repaid Liverpool’s investment with performances, points and a Champions League trophy. Today, Van Dijk, the winner of the Best UEFA Player of 2019 Award, is also the 15th most expensive footballer in history, not to mention that in January 2018 he was also the world’s most expensive defender. Anyway, defenders simply aren’t supposed to cost that much. It’s not that they don’t provide value to a team. It’s that attacking players tend to offer value beyond their on-pitch contributions much more than defenders or goalkeepers.
Van Dijk made his international debut for the Netherlands in 2015 and became captain of his country in 2018. In 2018, he scored his first international goal in a 3–0 win over European champions Portugal. Van Dijk is now seen as the world's best center-back, highlighted by his second-place finish in the 2019 Ballon d'Or just behind Lionel Messi.
Some Interesting Facts about Van Dijk, the Winner of the Best UEFA Player of 2019 Award
In case you missed it, Van Dijk went all of last season without being dribbled past by an opposition player — making it to 50 games before Nicolas Pepe officially ended the astonishing streak. Van Dijk is also the first Liverpool player to have his name etched onto the iconic Ballon d’Or trophy since Michael Owen in 2001.
Moreover, Virgil van Dijk is the first defender, the first Premier League player, and the first Dutchman to win the prestigious UEFA Men's Player of the Year Award. Van Dijk costs 85 million euros which makes him the most expensive defender of all time. He is the eighth Dutchman to represent Liverpool, following in the footsteps of Erik Meijer, Sander Westerveld, Bolo Zenden, Jan Kromkamp, Ryan Babel, Dirk Kuyt and Georginio Wijnaldum.
Van Dijk succeeds Alberto Aquilani, Jason McAteer, Kolo Toure, Nuri Sahin, Raul Meireles, Rigobert Song, Sami Hyypia and Steve Nicol as the wearer of the No.4 shirt in the Premier League. Having scored from free-kicks on a number of occasions at Celtic, Van Dijk has a reputation as a set-piece specialist too. He is the Liverpool's third-tallest first-team squad member (6ft 4in) behind Joel Matip and Adam Bogdan (both 6ft 5in).
During his time with Celtic, the club broke a defensive record. In fact, the team accumulated a massive 1,215 minutes without conceding a goal. According to transfermakt.com, Van Dijk costs more than the entire squad of Tigres, Mexico’s new champions. Tigres’ players altogether cost only £55million (almost £20million less than Van Dijk).
Van Dijk captains The Netherlands national soccer team but has only played 16 times for the Netherlands. He became the man of the match in 2019 UEFA Champions League Final and currently receives a yearly salary of £9,360,000 which translates to £180,000 weekly. He also features on the cover of FIFA 20 video game.
While he played for Celtic, Van Dijk scored a marvelous, leaving six opponents in his wake before beating the goalkeeper. "Van Dijk's biggest problem is that he can be disconnected when the game is comfortable," said Neil McGuinness, the chief scout of Celtic upon his move to Southampton.
Van Dijk is pretty active on social media such as Instagram and Twitter. Currently, he has more than 8.2milliion followers on Instagram and 1.5million followers on Twitter, but, he doesn’t have a Facebook account.
The Personal Life of Virgil van Dijk
Virgil van Dijk was born on 8 July 1991, Breda, Netherlands. From his early childhood, he had a keen interest in football and began to play at a very early age. As a youngster, Van Dijk was a huge admirer of the Brazilians and their samba style of play. He believes it's because of him trying to copy Ronaldinho in his boyhood days that he became so technically adept with the ball.
In making long-term relationships choices, Virgil van Dijk went for a lady whom he believes is less likely to be unreliable; someone who would stand by him by all means: Rike Nooitgedagt. Virgil and his girlfriend are of the same age and country (both from The Netherlands). They’ve been dating each other since childhood.
Rike has been credited for quitting her job to stay by the man of her life. In an interview, she once said: “I worked as a sales manager and sold different fashion brands to the stores in Holland. I loved it but had to resign to follow my man everywhere football takes him to.”
The couple had their first baby in 2014: a girl whom Virgil is very fond of. The birth of their baby was quite an event. At the moment (September 2014) Rike was due and Virgil at last got that invitation to The Netherlands national football team he had desperately wished for. Yet, he didn’t want to miss the birth of his daughter. So, what did he do? He arranged for Rike to prematurely give birth to their daughter; a decision that was criticized by fans and even The Netherlands coach, Guus Hiddink.
It has been confirmed that Van Dijk once cheated on Rike while she was pregnant. He offered Georgie Lyall Monies to sleep with her, and Georgie met up with him hours after he celebrated Celtic’s league title triumph with Rike at Parkhead. A source revealed that they had been in contact the day before Celtic won the league title.
It was Georgie Lyall who decided to call it a quit after deciding to change her way of life. This happened after she accepted a university offer to study nursing and followed by her deleting her social media accounts. She insists she has no regrets about her past and about meeting Van Dijk, who after being caught, said he had massaged her from an account he claimed belonged to a friend. Recent reports, however, say he is a changed man.
The Best UEFA Player of 2019 in Terms of Honors and Numbers
Here is the best UEFA player of 2019 (Virgil van Dijk) in terms of honors and numbers.
Here are some testimonials for the best UEFA Men’s Player of 2019, Virgil van Dijk:
"He reminds me very much of Mark Lawrenson and Alan Hansen back in the day. They made everything look simple and he is the same. Good players always improve too."
Sammy Lee, former assistant coach of Van Dijk's at Southampton
“When you find someone like Virgil Van Dijk, who is very good with the ball but is also very good in defence, you start to jump and go crazy.”
Rio Ferdinand, former Manchester United defender
And How About the Best UEFA Women’s Player of 2019?
The Olympique Lyonnais and England defender, who helped her club win last season's UEFA Women's Champions League title and was a semi-finalist with her country in this summer's FIFA Women's World Cup, claimed a total of 88 points and won the Best UEFA Women’s Player of 2019. Her Lyon club-mate, forward Ada Hegerberg, came second with 56 points, while another Lyon player, French international midfielder Amandine Henry, was third with 44 points.
In a video-recorded message, 27-year-old Bronze said: "I'm very honoured to be receiving this award, especially because I was up against two great team-mates from Olympique Lyonnais. I also want to say a huge thanks to the England team for the great summer that we enjoyed. I don't think that I would have won this award if it wasn't for them.
The same thanks also go to my club for such an amazing season. I think any of my club-mates could be up here receiving this award for such a fantastic team. I want to thank both teams for pushing me to be a better player, and for making me the player that I am today."