Virgil van Dijk described the 'very special' emotion of being honoured by his peers with the 2018-19 PFA Players' Player of the Year accolade on Sunday.
The Liverpool defender was announced as the recipient of the prestigious individual accolade at a ceremony in London, emerging as the winner from a six-man shortlist including Reds teammate Sadio Mane.
The award comes as recognition of an outstanding campaign for Van Dijk, who has made 45 appearances and scored five goals in Liverpool’s pursuit of Premier League and Champions League glory so far this season.
At the PFA Awards, the 27-year-old explained the feeling of clinching the honour, how those around him at the club helped him win it, and why collective success is his ultimate ambition…
How does it feel to be the PFA Player of the Year?
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.
In the Premier League era, only two defenders have won the award. Does that make it even more special?
It’s special, definitely. 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.
What are your highlights of the season so far?
Throughout the whole season I’ve been feeling great – we’ve been winning many games, we are competing with Man City for the title and obviously the most important thing is to stay fit and play consistently as well. I think I’ve been doing that pretty well this season. Obviously without the help of my teammates it wouldn’t be possible. We just have to keep going and carry on. I’m feeling good.
What has been the key to Liverpool’s defence performing so well?
I think the key is that the way we defend is to do it altogether. Defending starts up front. How our strikers put pressure on defenders is unbelievable, I don’t want to be put under pressure by those kinds of players. And even if they beat that press, we still have a midfield that keeps hunting you down at all times. It makes it a lot easier for us as a back four, with the goalkeeper, to [not] be under pressure. But if we’re under pressure we still need to deal with it and I think that’s been going pretty well as well.
Mohamed Salah won this award last year, now you. What does Jürgen Klopp do to get the best out of his players?
He gives confidence. It’s just credit to everyone who is part of Liverpool. The fans have been supporting us from day one and will always be there. Without the teammates around you, the staff, the people who work at the training ground and stadium, everyone who makes sure we’re ready for the next game – everyone is responsible for the good things going on right now at Liverpool. We just want to keep it going. Hopefully that will result in trophies in the future.
Your manager says you can get even better…
I’m very happy with how I’m performing at the moment, how consistently I’m performing, and that I’m fit as well. I don’t need to look too far ahead. Right now, we are in a tight title race, we’re in the Champions League semi-finals against a fantastic team who probably the best player is playing for. We just take it game by game. Now it’s time to focus on Barcelona midweek and then we have a big game away at Newcastle as well. I won’t look too far ahead. The only goals I will set are personal goals with Liverpool.
You’ve said you want to become a legend for Liverpool. What would you have to do to achieve that?
Hopefully keep playing the way we are playing with Liverpool – and get trophies. All the players in the league want to play for trophies and get trophies. We definitely want to get a trophy. We’re working hard every day for it and hopefully in the future that will happen. That’s definitely what we’re looking for.