Virgil Van Dijk takes UEFA Player of the Year honors at Champions League draw

Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk with the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year and Champions League Defender of the Season awards. (Reuters)
Updated 29 August 2019

Virgil Van Dijk takes UEFA Player of the Year honors at Champions League draw

  • 28-year-old is the first defender to win the award since the inaugural edition
  • Dutchman Van Dijk starred as Liverpool won their sixth European Cup last season

MONACO: Liverpool center-back Virgil van Dijk won the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award on Thursday, edging out Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, while Lucy Bronze took the women’s prize.
Dutchman Van Dijk starred as Liverpool won their sixth European Cup last season with a 2-0 Champions League final victory over Tottenham in Madrid.
“I need to thank my teammates, without them I would not have achieved what I have achieved,” Van Dijk told BT Sport.
“It’s been a long road and it’s part of my journey. I’m very proud to get this trophy. It’s credit to everyone who has helped me.”
The 28-year-old is the first defender to win the award since the inaugural edition in 2010-11.


He moved to Liverpool from Southampton in January 2018 for a then-world record fee for a defender of £75 million ($91.4 million), immediately helping them reach that season’s Champions League final where they lost to Real Madrid.
But Van Dijk was a key figure as Liverpool won their first major trophy since 2012 last term, while also setting a club-record points tally in finishing second by a point behind Manchester City in the Premier League.
“I wasn’t 18 and went straight to the top. I had to work every step of the way,” added Van Dijk, who was also part of the Netherlands side who lost the inaugural Nations League final to Ronaldo’s Portugal.
Messi and Ronaldo had claimed five of the previous eight awards between them, with Andres Iniesta (2012), Franck Ribery (2013) and Luka Modric (2018) completing the winners’ list.
Full-back Bronze won the Women’s Champions League title with Lyon before helping England reach the women’s World Cup semifinals.
The 27-year-old Bronze is the first English player to win either of the UEFA player of the year titles.


Meanwhile, the draw for the Champions League group stage was made.
Liverpool received a relatively kind draw with Italy’s Napoli their toughest opponents in Group E.
Juergen Klopp’s side will also face Austria’s Salzburg and Belgian side Genk.
The draw produced two fascinating groups which should deliver a real battle for qualification with Barcelona facing Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan and Slavia Prague in Group F.
Group D is also a mouth-watering prospect with Italian champions Juventus taking on Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow.
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane will return to his homeland France for a clash with Paris St. Germain in Group A which also includes Club Brugge and Galatasaray.
Last year’s runners-up Tottenham Hotspur face German champions Bayern Munich as well as Greek side Olympiakos and Serbia’s Red Star Belgrade in Group B.

 


Hazard stunner gives revived Real Madrid win over Huesca

Updated 01 November 2020

Hazard stunner gives revived Real Madrid win over Huesca

  • Belgian forward ends goal drought as he thrills fans with brilliant first-half strike

MADRID: Eden Hazard scored his first goal for Real Madrid in over a year and his team appeared to turn a corner as they beat newly promoted Huesca 4-1 in La Liga on Saturday.
Hazard has had a terrible time with injuries since joining Madrid for €100 million ($113 million) from Chelsea in 2019 but the Belgian will hope his stunning strike from distance at the Alfredo di Stefano can kick-start his career in Spain.

Karim Benzema and Fede Valverde made the win secure before Huesca scored through David Ferreiro, only for Benzema to add his second and Madrid’s fourth in injury-time.

Zinedine Zidane’s side jump above Real Sociedad to the top of the table to cap an encouraging week, which began with a Clasico win over Barcelona at Camp Nou and finishes with them moving nine points clear of the Catalans, who were playing away at Alaves on Saturday.

In between, Madrid came too close for comfort to another damaging defeat in the Champions League but two late goals salvaged a draw at Borussia Monchengladbach that in the end felt like a win.

Huesca, who are yet to win this season, might feel the scoreline was harsh after they squandered early chances.

Madrid will hope the dip that put Zidane under pressure earlier this month is over.

Zidane will have been particularly delighted with Hazard, whose goal was his first for Madrid since he scored against Granada in October last year, and his second overall in La Liga.

Ankle surgery kept Hazard out for the majority of last season and he was not fit for the start of this one, with Madrid only describing his latest setback as a “muscle injury.”

But he made his first appearance off the bench in the Champions League in midweek and against Huesca marked his first start with a brilliant goal in the first half.

Until then, Huesca had been the better team but Hazard’s strike turned the contest in the 40th minute, when he received the ball on the half-turn and swerved a superb shot into the corner from 30 yards out.

Benzema made it two, chesting down Lucas Vazquez’s cross at the back post and driving in, before Valverde struck a sweet half-volley into the corner.

Ferreiro gave Huesca brief hope with 16 minutes left but Madrid were never overly troubled and Benzema rounded off the win in injury-time, converting a smart header back from Rodrygo.