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Van Dijk beats Messi and Ronaldo to win UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award

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Virgil van Dijk has been named the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year for 2018-19, seeing off competition from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Liverpool defender was crowned at the ceremony for the Champions League group stage draw on Thursday.

Van Dijk kept five clean sheets in 12 appearances as well as scoring two goals and contributing two assists as the Merseyside club lifted the trophy for a sixth time.

That victory in Madrid capped a fine campaign for the former Celtic and Southampton defender, who was also named PFA Players’ Player of the Season as well as Liverpool Players’ and Fans’ Player of the Season.

Van Dijk was also integral to the Netherlands’ run to the inaugural Nations League Finals in June, where they beat England 3-1 after extra-time in the last four before losing to Portugal in the final.

Liverpool also scooped two of the four positional awards, with Van Dijk named best defender ahead of team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold and new Juventus signing Matthijs de Ligt.

Alisson Becker won the goalkeeper award, beating Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris and Marc-Andre ter Stegen of Barcelona.

The Brazilian kept six clean sheets during Liverpool’s Champions League run, including in the final where he made eight saves in the Reds’ 2-0 win over Tottenham.

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Barcelona star Messi beat rival Ronaldo and Liverpool’s Sadio Mane to the forward award, after scoring 12 goals in 10 Champions League appearances for the Catalan giants last season.

Frenkie de Jong claimed the midfielder award ahead of Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen and Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson. The Netherlands international played a key role in Ajax’s memorable run to the semi-finals, which included victories over Real Madrid and Juventus.

His performances unsurprisingly saw him attract interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs, with Barcelona ultimately winning the race for the 22-year-old in a £65 million ($81m) deal.

Burnley fan Scott Cunliffe was joint winner of the UEFA #EqualGame Award, which honours those who highlight diversity, inclusion and accessibility in football. Cunliffe ran to every single Burnley away match during the 2018/19 season, raising more than £54,000 for the club’s charities.

Borussia Dortmund were also honoured for their work in tackling tackling far-right extremism among their fanbase, challenging racism and adopting a clear policy on the humanitarian rights of refugees and asylum-seekers.

The first award of the evening went to Manchester United legend Eric Cantona, who collected the President’s Award from UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin to honour his illustrious playing career and charity work.

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