Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has been named PFA Players’ Player of the Year for his role in the Reds’ 2018/19 title push.
The Dutch centre-back fought off competition from Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and Bernardo Silva, Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane and Chelsea forward Eden Hazard.
Ahead of the award being announced, Van Dijk was seen as the favourite to be named player of the year, with Sterling the other name hotly tipped.
Van Dijk has been instrumental in Liverpool’s hunt for the Premier League title, helping to transform a Reds defence that has been their downfall over the years.
Meanwhile, Sterling has been directly involved in 27 Premier League goals this season; only Hazard (29) managing has a better record in this sense.
Congrats big man.
PFA player of the year 💪🏼 pic.twitter.com/qdCzpXuSRz
— Mohamed Salah (@MoSalah) April 28, 2019
Van Dijk’s victory means a Liverpool player has won the award for the second year in a row after Mohamed Salah was named Players’ Player of the Year last season following his record-breaking year in front of goal.
The Dutchman is also the first defender to win the award since John Terry did in Chelsea’s 2004/05 Premier League-winning season.
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How did the Premier League’s main contenders vote?
PFA rules mean a player is not allowed to vote for himself or a fellow teammate when choosing their Player of the Year. As a result, players may look to vote tactically if they wish to stack the odds in their favour.
However, this is something Van Dijk insists he does not do, voting for his closest rival Sterling.
“I think, obviously, other players in the league are voting,” he told BT Sport.
“I’m not going to vote tactically, that’s not who I am. I just want to vote for who I think has had a fantastic season.
In case you missed Raheem Sterling and Virgil Van Dijk discussing their PFA player of the year votes 😂
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 24, 2019
“There are a lot of players on the Man City team I could’ve voted for and I think people should think there are a lot of players on our team that they could vote for as well.
“I think [Sterling] has improved a lot as a player and he’s up there.”
However, Sterling did not return the favour, picking England teammate Harry Kane for his impact on Tottenham.
“I voted for Harry Kane,” he said, as reported by Goal.
“My vote for him is because he scores so many goals every year, he does so much for the team, gives so much for his team.
“There was a lot of talk about Virgil van Dijk. I knew he would have a lot of the votes, so I looked at someone I thought being around him in the national team, how he puts in his work, his work ethic, how he looks after himself.
“He’s always there, especially coming back from injury, as a professional I looked at him and that’s my reason for voting for him, seeing him on a day-to-day with the national team.”