Uefa have announced the final nominees for the Men’s Player of the Year award and it includes Liverpool’s towering centre-back Virgil van Dijk along with regulars Lionel Messi of Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus.
The prize will be awarded to one of the trio during the draw for the Champions League group stage in Monaco on August 29, after they were shortlisted by a jury of coaches and journalists.
England’s Lucy Bronze, Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg and France’s Amandine Henry have been shortlisted for the women’s award. All three play for European champions Lyon.
Messi netted 51 goals in 50 appearances for Barcelona helping them to the La Liga title, reach the semi-final of the Champions League and the final of the Cope Del Rey. Messi also made 22 assists in those games, further strengthening his case.
Messi won the first edition of the award in 2011 while Ronaldo has won it on three occasions, in 2014, 2016 and 2017.
Ronaldo had a relatively quieter campaign by his own standards scoring 28 goals in 43 appearances for new side Juventus. The Old Lady won an eighth straight Serie A title but suffered a shock exit from the Champions League at the hands of Ajax Amsterdam.
Ronaldo’s case though is strengthened by the key role he played in helping Portugal win the first-ever Uefa Nations League title.
Liverpool’s Van Dijk was the PFA Player of the Year in England after helping Liverpool to the second place in the Premier League. The Dutchman was a key figure for the European Champions who lost just once in the domestic league last season, finishing just a point behind champions Manchester City.
Van Dijk was instrumental in helping Liverpool claim a sixth European title in Madrid in June, perhaps making him a frontrunner in this race. The center-back was also a vital cog of the Dutch renaissance that saw the national team reach the final of the Uefa Nations League.
If awarded, Van Dijk will be the first-ever defender to win the prize.
Luka Modric is the current holder of the men’s award after winning the Champions League and taking Croatia to the World Cup final in 2018, while Wolfsburg’s Danish striker Pernille Harder bagged the women’s.
(With AFP inputs)