Virgil van Dijk has been voted the PFA Player of the Year for the 2018-19 season after a stellar campaign at Liverpool.
The Dutchman saw off competition from Manchester City's Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and Bernardo Silva with fellow teammate Sadio Mane and Chelsea forward Eden Hazard completing the six-man shortlist of nominees.
Van Dijk and Sterling have been the standout players during this campaign, which has seen both Liverpool and Man City battle it out for the Premier League.
Whilst the title is still up in the air, Van Dijk secured more votes than the City forward from his fellow professionals after conceding just 20 goals in 36 games so far - the best in the league.
Speaking at the ceremony in London, Van Dijk said: “It’s pretty difficult to put it into words. I think it’s the highest honour you can get as a player – to be voted Player of the Year by the players you play against every week. It’s special. I’m obviously very proud and honoured to win it.
“If you see the standard of strikers and playmakers we have in the league, it’s unbelievable. If you see the shortlist – what kind of quality there is – it’s very special that players in the league voted for me. I won’t take it for granted.”
Van Dijk has helped keep 27 clean sheets in 50 Premier League appearances for Liverpool after Friday night’s 5-0 win over Huddersfield.
The 27-year-old, who was signed for a record £75m from Southampton, is only the sixth defender in 46 years to win the award, highlighting just how exceptional he has been this year.
Van Dijk, who is the second consecutive Liverpool player to earn the accolade after Mohamed Salah last year, is a pivotal reason behind the Reds’ success in both the Premier League and Champions League this season.
He became the first Premier League defender in six years to claim a Player of the Month award, winning it in November and once again in February.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 28, 2019
Van Dijk has emphatically delivered on his huge price-tag and responded to every challenge thrown his way but he faces one of his biggest tests in a Liverpool shirt next week as he meets Lionel Messi and co in the first leg of the Reds’ Champions League semi-final on Wednesday.
"How are we going to do it (stop Messi)? I don’t know, we’ll see. It’s going to be a great match-up for all of us," van Dijk said ahead of the fixture.
"It’s about doing it all together, it’s never 1vs1, it’s never just me against a particular striker. It’s always us against everyone and I think that’s the only way we can defend well."