Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk was named on Thursday UEFA Soccer Player of the Year at a ceremony in Monaco, in which England's Lucy Bronze of Olympique Lyonnais received the women's award.
Soccer players during a match. / Reference image / Pixabay
Reuters | Rohith Nai
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Van Dijk is the first defender to win the prize after beating Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus and Lionel Messi of Barcelona. The Portuguese and the Argentine have won the prize, established in 2010, five times between them.
The 28-year-old Dutch center, which has transformed Liverpool's defense into a wall since arriving in Anfield from Southampton in January 2018 with its great physical presence and excellent football reading.
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"It has been a long road, but it is part of my trip, it is part of who I am. I needed it that way, I am not a player who at 18 years of age had an immediate ascent. I had to work hard," said the former Celtic defender from Scotland.
Ronaldo and Messi, who have dominated individual awards in football over the past decade, sat side by side in the event. The Portuguese reflected on the fact of not continuing to compete directly with the Argentine in the Spanish league.
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"It was a special year. I was curious because we have shared the stage here for 15 years. Of course, we have a good relationship ... We press each other and it is good to be part of the history of football," Ronaldo said.
For its part, Bronze, the former player of Manchester City, enjoyed a successful season, in which he won the Champions League with Lyon and reached the semifinals of the World Cup with England.
The English exceeded in the vote to his companions Ada Hegerberg and Amandine Henry.