Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has been named the Premier League Player of the Season following a memorable campaign for the Netherlands international.
Signed for £75 million ($95m) from Southampton in January 2018, Van Dijk has helped revolutionise the Reds’ backline this season as they battled for a first league title in 29 years.
The 27-year-old beat off the likes of Raheem Sterling, Eden Hazard and teammates; Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to take the prize on Sunday after fans’ votes were combined with those of a panel of experts.
Manchester pair Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero joined club-mate Sterling on the seven-man shortlist for an award which has previously been won by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Wayne Rooney and Thierry Henry.
Van Dijk becomes the second successive Liverpool player to win the prize following Salah’s success in 2017-18 and fourth overall, with Luis Suarez and Michael Owen having also taken home the award during their respective times at Anfield.
It is also the second illustrious gong that the former Celtic centre-back has won in recent times after he was named PFA Player of the Year in the closing weeks of the campaign.
In total, Van Dijk has played in each of Liverpool’s 37 Premier League matches this term, helping them to 20 clean sheets while scoring four goals at the other end of the pitch.
Those performances have helped Liverpool to keep the pressure on defending champions Man City at the top of the table heading into the final day of the season today (Sunday).
Victory for Pep Guardiola’s side at Brighton will see them crowned English Premier League champions for the fourth time in the Premier League era, but anything less could allow Van Dijk and the Reds to sneak and claim the top spot for themselves.
Jurgen Klopp’s side will host Wolverhampton Wanderers on the final day of the campaign after a memorable season that has seen them defeated just once in the league and accrued a record-breaking 94 points from their first 37 matches.
And Liverpool’s best may not prove to be enough to claim the title on Sunday, the five-time European champions could still end the year with silverware having booked their place in the Champions League final.
Klopp will take his squad to Madrid for the Champions League final on June 1 following their remarkable comeback against Barcelona in the semi-finals, with Liverpool winning 4-0 in the second leg following a 3-0 defeat at Camp Nou six days earlier.
They will face first-time finalists and fellow Premier League outfit Tottenham at the Wanda Metripolitano after Mauricio Pochettino’s side pulled off their own come-from-behind win to knock out Ajax in the last four.