Defence beats attack as Virgil Van Dijk caps stunning year with UEFA prize

A “passion” for preventing goals, great coaching and Liverpool’s “world-class forwards” are what Virgil Van Dijk believes helped him become the first defender to win UEFA’s Men’s Player of the Year award on Thursday.

The 28-year-old Dutchman comfortably beat Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who have won this award five times between them, in a poll decided by coaches from the 32 teams that made last season’s Champions League group stage and 55 leading football journalists.

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