Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has been named 2018/19 UEFA Men’s Player of the Year this Thursday, August 28 in Monaco, in recognition of his incredible achievements for the club and country in the last year.
What is The UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award?
The UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award is widely considered to be one of the most prestigious individual awards any football player can receive and understandably one which any professional football player strives to achieve. The award was created in 2011 by UEFA in partnership with ESM (European Sports Media group) and was initially aimed to revive the European Footballer of the Year award, also known as Ballon d’Or. The Ballon d’Or award which saw its beginning back in 1956 has merged with FIFA World Player of the Year for a short period between 2010 and 2015. The merged award was renamed to FIFA Ballon d’Or. The partnership, however, ended in 2016, meaning FIFA Ballon d’Or reverted back to the Ballon d’Or, whereas FIFA reverted to its own separate annual award, now known as The Best FIFA Men’s player.
Since its inception in 2011, UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award, has been awarded to six different players, which include; Lionel Messi (2011,2015), Andres Iniesta (2012), Frank Ribery (2013), Cristiano Ronaldo (2014.2016,2017), Luka Modric (2018) and most recently Virgil van Dijk (2019). Out of the six, the most successful player was and is Cristiano Ronaldo, who is as of today the only player who has won UEFA Men’s Player of the Year three times and twice in a row. Additionally, he is also the only player who has reached the shortlist in each of the nine instalments of the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year.
The voting for UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award has changed since its inception in 2011. At first, the award’s voting format was similar to that of the old Ballon d’Or, which meant the winner was decided purely by journalists. The voting process was divided into two rounds. In the first round, 53 sports journalists representing each of the UEFA national associations provided a list of their top three players, ranked 1-3. The first player on the list received five points, second three and the third one point. Once all the points were counted up, three players with the most points overall got shortlisted. Once provided with only top three players, the renowned sports journalist voted once more via electronic votes during the presentation ceremony, which gave us the final winner of the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year.
This voting format was used for seven years, until UEFA decided to change it, by adding 80 coaches from all the clubs, which participated in the group stage of last year’s UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa league to the jury. Additionally, UEFA decided to increase the number of journalists from 53 to 55, meaning we have a total of 135 people in the jury, who decide which players deserves to win the prestigious trophy.
Who won the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year 2018/19?
Liverpool and Netherlands defender Virgil van Dijk has been named the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year for 2018/19 season, due to his incredible achievements with the Reds, which did not go unnoticed by the media and coaches.
The Dutch international beat off all of his competition, including three-time UEFA Men’s Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo and two-time winner Lionel Messi, who finished well below the 28-year-old centre-back. The ceramony concluded with the final standings looking as follows:
UEFA Men’s Player of the Year Top 10:
1 Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool & Netherlands); 305 points
2 Lionel Messi (Barcelona & Argentina); 207 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
While featuring 10 exceptional players, van Dijk without a doubt considered one of the top three even before the voting began. His performances in Liverpool were just exceptional and while it’s strikers who usually take all the spotlight, van Dijk shone brightly in the Reds defence. Since his arrival from Southampton in January 2018, van Dijk singlehandedly made Liverpool’s defence much more solid. The fact that the Dutch kept more clean sheets than any defender in Europe’s top five leagues last term speaks volumes and clearly shows how talented of a player van Dijk is. Not only has he impressed with his performances in the domestic league, van Dijk also proved to be a key player in Liverpool’s venture in the Champions League, where van Dijk emerged as the player of the match against Tottenham in the finals.
There are no words to describe how brilliant of a player van Dijk is, yet the testimonials from his two coaches do paint a picture.
Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool manager:
“You could write a book about Virgil van Dijk’s strengths and abilities. He is still young, but he’s so mature.”
Ronald Koeman, Netherlands coach:
“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.”
UEFA Women’s Player of the Year
While all the spotlight was on the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award, we cannot forget to mention the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year award, which was won by Lucy Bronze, an English footballer who has all the right to be recognised as the best player of last season.
The Lyon and England right-back, Lucy Bronze win the seventh instalment of UEFA Women’s Player of the Year adding to her impressive collection of achievements last term. Her titles and achievement last term include:
– UEFA Women’s Champions League winner
– French league winner, French Cup winner
– UEFA Women’s Champions League Squad of the Season
– FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-finals
– FIFA Women’s World Cup Silver ball
– SheBelieves Cup winner
The English right-back finished 32 points above Ada Hegerberg and 44 points above Amandine Henry, both of which are teammates of Bronze at Lyon.
UEFA Women’s Player of the Year Top 10:
1 Lucy Bronze (Lyon & England); 88 points
2 Ada Hegerberg (Lyon) – 56 points
3 Amandine Henry (Lyon & France); 44 points
4 Vivianne Miedema (Arsenal & Netherlands); 31 points
5 Ellen White (Birmingham City, now Manchester City & England); 22 points
6 Pernille Harder (Wolfsburg & Denmark); 21 points
7 Dzsenifer Marozsán (Lyon & Germany); 12 points
8 Caroline Graham Hansen (Wolfsburg, now Barcelona & Norway); 10 points
9 Lieke Martens (Barcelona & Netherlands); 9 points
9 Wendie Renard (Lyon & France); 9 points
UEFA Champions League positional award
Last but not least, UEFA awarded five players, who emerged as the top players in their respective positions during the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League. The voting process for positional awards was similar to the one used for UEFA Men’s Player of the Year, with the only exception being that there were 55 journalists and 32 coaches in the jury, who were not allowed to vote for players from their own teams.
The awards were distributed as follows:
CL Goalkeeper of the season:
Alisson Becker (Liverpool)
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)
Marc-Andre ter Stegen ( Barcelona)
CL Defender of the season:
Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax/Juventus)
CL Midfielder of the season:
Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona)
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)
Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
CL Forward of the season:
Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
Europa League Player of the season
While the most of attention was pointed towards the performance of players in the Champions League, UEFA did not forget to acknowledge the performance of players in the Europa League, by awarding the best player with an award of his own.
EL Player of the season:
- Eden Hazard (Chelsea/Real Madrid)
- Luka Jovic (Eintracht Frankfurt/Real Madrid)
- Oliver Giroud (Chelsea)