Virgil Van Dijk named UEFA Men's Player of the Year
(Photo: Getty Images/Agence Nice Presse)

Liverpool's defensive cornerstone Virgil Van Dijk has been named the UEFA Men's Player of the Year, amassing almost 100 more points than nearest rival Lionel Messi.

The award was decided by a panel made up of the 32 managers from last season's Champions League, as well as the 48 Europa League teams.  There was also one journalist who voted from each of the 55 UEFA member associations.

Those who voted selected their top three players, with first place receiving five points, second place three points and third place securing one point.

Van Dijk totalled a huge 305 points, with Messi on 207 and Cristiano Ronaldo securing third place with 74.

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Van Dijk & a prolonged rise to greatness

Van Dijk's rise to Europe's premier footballer has not been an overnight journey. 

Speaking after receiving his award, the Dutchman stated: "It's been a long road but that's part of my journey, it's part of who I am. I needed it like this, I'm not a player who was 18 years old and had that rise straight away.

I had to work hard for every step of the way – that's part of me and I'm very happy about that. I'm very proud to get this trophy and it's all credit to everyone that's helped me along the way.”

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Is the Ballon d'Or now inked in?

Given the similarity in who votes for this award and the Ballon d'Or, the Liverpool centre-back would now appear odds on favourite to pick up the prestigious Ballon d'Or award in December.

This win could symbolise a changing of the guard for football's top individual gongs, as we appear to be heading towards a second consecutive year with the Ballon d'Or winner not being one of Messi or Ronaldo.