(Reuters) - Liverpool centre back Virgil van Dijk was named Player of the Year by England’s Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) on Sunday, becoming the fourth player from the Netherlands to win the award.
The 27-year-old has transformed Liverpool’s defence since joining from Southampton in January last year for a world record fee of 75 million pounds for a defender.
The Dutchman has helped the title-chasing Merseysiders keep 19 clean sheets in the Premier League and they have conceded the fewest goals in the top flight so far this season.
Liverpool are also in the Champions League semi-finals.
“I think it’s the highest honour you can get as a player to get voted Player of the year by the players you play against every week. It’s special. I’m very proud and honoured to win,” Van Dijk told Sky Sports.
Arsenal’s Dutch forward Vivianne Miedema, 22, claimed the women’s Player of the Year award, having earlier on Sunday helped the London club secure their third Women’s Super League title with her 22nd goal of the season.
Van Dijk topped a six-man shortlist, voted for by PFA members from the 92 Premier and Football League clubs, beating Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and Bernardo Silva plus team mate Sadio Mane and Chelsea forward Eden Hazard.
The Dutch international is the second Liverpool player in a row to win the award after forward Mohamed Salah last year and joins compatriots Dennis Bergkamp, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Robin van Persie in claiming the honour.
Van Dijk is the first defender to win the award since Chelsea centre-back John Terry in 2005.
Manchester City’s England forward Sterling won the men’s young player award with the club’s England forward Georgia Stanway taking the equivalent women’s prize.
City’s England Women’s captain Steph Houghton was presented with the PFA Special Achievement award.
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; editing by Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar