Van Dijk names hero growing up after collecting UEFA gong

Date published: Thursday 29th August 2019 7:09

Virgil van Dijk has paid tribute to his Liverpool teammates – and has also named the player he most looked up to growing up – after being named as UEFA Player of the Year for 2019.

The Reds defender, a £75m signing from Southampton in January 2018, helped Liverpool to Champions League glory in June and becomes the first Dutchman to win the award.

 Van Dijk was also named UEFA Defender of the Year, while his Liverpool teammate Alisson Becker was named UEFA Goalkeeper of the Year.

Barcelona new boy Frenkie De Jong, who starred as Ajax reached the semi-finals of the Champions League last season, was picked as Midfielder of the Year, while his new teammate, Lionel Messi, was awarded Forward of the Year.

However, Van Dijk collected the top award, beating previous winners Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the process.

Van Dijk, who is also favourite for the Ballon d’Or, reflected on his road to the top after picking up his award. – and also named his hero as a kid.

“I wasn’t 18 and went straight to the top. I had to work every step of the way,” he said.

“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.

“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.”

 

Ronaldo on Messi rivalry

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo: Who is the next best?

Meanwhile, Ronaldo extended his hand of friendship to Messi after the pair were pipped to the post by Van Dijk.

Shortly before the main award was announced, Ronaldo, who was sitting next to Messi, was asked if he missed his rivalry with the Argentinian since moving from Real Madrid to Juventus.

“I was curious because we’ve shared the stage here for 15 years,” he said.

“It’s not easy but of course we have a good relationship. We have not yet had dinner but it is nice.

“We push each other and it’s good to be part of the history of football.”

 

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