England full-back Lucy Bronze won UEFA’s women’s award and is on FIFA’s shortlist with the United States’ World Cup-winning duo Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is up against Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino of Tottenham for best men’s coach.
Phil Neville, who led England’s women to a World Cup semi-final, is up for the women’s coach award with the USA’s Jill Ellis and Sarina Wiegman who guided European champions the Netherlands to the World Cup final.
FIFA Best shortlists
Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus/Portugal), Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Argentina), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool/Netherlands)
Lucy Bronze (Lyon/England), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride/USA), Megan Rapinoe (Reign FC/USA)
Pep Guardiola (Manchester City), Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool), Mauricio Pochettino (Tottenham)
Jill Ellis (USA), Phil Neville (England), Sarina Wiegman (Netherlands)
Christiane Endler (Paris St-Germain/Chile), Hedvig Lindahl (Wolfsburg/Sweden), Sari van Veenendaal (Atletico Madrid/Netherlands)
Alisson (Liverpool/Brazil), Ederson (Manchester City/Brazil), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona/Germany)
Puskas award (for best goal):
Lionel Messi (Barcelona v Real Betis), Juan Quintero (River Plate v Racing Club), Daniel Zsori (Debrecen v Ferencvaros)
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.
“It’s not easy but of course we have a good relationship,” said Ronaldo of Messi.
“We have not yet had dinner but it is nice. We push each other and it’s good to be part of the history of football.”
Ronaldo’s first season in Italy after joining Juventus from Real Madrid brought him a Serie A winners’ medal, but the Turin giants suffered a shock Champions League quarter-final loss to Ajax.
“It was a special year,” said the 34-year-old.
Full-back Bronze won the Women’s Champions League title with Lyon before helping England reach the women’s World Cup semi-finals.
“We had an amazing season, winning the treble,” said Bronze of Lyon’s exploits. “I think any of my teammates could have been up here receiving the award today.”
The 27-year-old Bronze is the first English player to win either of the UEFA player of the year titles.
Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk have been named candidates for this year’s UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award, European football’s governing body announced on Thursday.
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.
Van Dijk has joined Messi and Ronaldo, the two iconic players of their generation, on the shortlist after starring in defence for Liverpool as they won a sixth Champions League and came close to winning their first domestic league title in 29 years.
Messi won the first edition of the award in 2011 while Ronaldo has won it on three occasions, in 2014, 2016 and 2017.
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 prize.
Virgil Van Dijk believes Liverpool can use their Champions League escape against Napoli as a springboard to win Europe’s elite club competition.
Jurgen Klopp’s side booked their place in the last 16 with a tense 1-0 win over Napoli at Anfield on Tuesday.
A fine finish from Mohamed Salah put Liverpool ahead, but the Reds needed goalkeeper Alisson Becker to make a superb save to deny Arkadiusz Milik in the closing seconds before they could finally relax.
Liverpool are also top of the Premier League after going unbeaten in their first 16 games this season, raising the prospect of Klopp’s men winning a first English title since 1990 while also challenging for a sixth European Cup.
Dutch defender Van Dijk sees no reason why Liverpool can’t win the Champions League this term after losing last season’s final against Real Madrid.
“It’s something that we all want, it’s something that we are going to give everything for,” Van Dijk said.
“We want to play on the highest level and the Champions League, other than the Premier League for us, is the highest level.
“We want to reach the maximum and hopefully do better than we did last year in the Champions League. You need to have dreams, you need to go for it, otherwise why would you be a footballer?
“It’s a great time to be a Liverpool fan or player. It’s tough but enjoy it and embrace it. These are the days you want to experience as a footballer and we are.”
Liverpool have conceded just six goals in the league this season and, after some less solid displays in their previous Champions League games, they managed to replicate that domestic defensive strength to keep Napoli at bay.
Van Dijk revealed much of that is built on the team ethic which means the players being confident enough to challenge each other in order to maintain their high standards.
“You need to be hard with each other. When things aren’t going right you need to tell each other, otherwise it’s going to be too easy. I think that’s a sign of a good team,” he said.
“When people are shouting at me I take it because they want to make me better and (if it is) their mistake they take it as well if I shout to them.
“That’s how it is, we’re all grown-ups, we take it and after the game, if you’re not happy with it then you discuss it.”
Van Dijk said Liverpool had been frustrated at missing “big chances” against Napoli, including one opportunity that he himself volleyed over the bar.
“We could have made it a lot easier, we could have scored another two or three, we didn’t, and then it was important for us to win our battles and keep it tight and we did,” he said.
Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk was a relieved man after giving away a late penalty that Riyad Mahrez missed in a goalless draw with title rivals Manchester City on Sunday.
City, the reigning Premier League champions, were given a gilt-edged chance to leave Anfield with a win for the first time since 2003 when Van Dijk brought down Leroy Sane inside the box five minutes from time.
But Mahrez, City’s club-record signing, blasted high over the bar with regular penalty-taker Sergio Aguero having already been substituted by Pep Guardiola.
“It is not smart to dive in there,” Van Dijk told Sky Sports.
“It was a penalty and it shouldn’t have happened, but I’m very happy we didn’t concede.”
Unlike some players, he added he had watched the penalty.
“I watched it because I wanted to get the rebound if he missed it,” Van Dijk explained.
“They did well, as did we, up until the penalty moment.
“We were unlucky not to score, and lucky not to concede as well, so I think we cancelled each other out. It was a tough game against the champions and I’m happy we kept the clean sheet,” he added.
Mahrez has now missed five of his last eight Premier League penalties, four for Leicester, from where he signed for £60 million ($78.7 million), and one for City.
But City defender John Stones defended the decision to let him take the high-pressure spot-kick by saying: “It is one of those things in football.
“Riyad Mahrez was taking them really well in training all week, but it happens and we have to move on.”
Virgil van Dijk has lived up to his billing as the world’s most expensive defender in his short Liverpool career, but shutting out a desperate Manchester City in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday will be his biggest test yet.
Runaway Premier League leaders City could line up with the most expensive defence ever assembled for their rescue mission, but they may regret letting Van Dijk get away if they fail in their mammoth task to overturn a 3-0 first-leg deficit.
Liverpool beat off competition from City to sign Van Dijk for £75 million ($106 million) in January from Southampton, six months after their first attempt to land the Dutchman failed.
Jurgen Klopp was much-criticised early in the campaign for refusing to splash out on a backup option to Van Dijk as Liverpool’s chances of challenging City for the title vanished quickly due to defensive deficiencies.
However, Klopp’s patience to get his prime target has been rewarded as Van Dijk has spearheaded a turnaround in Liverpool’s ability to keep opponents at bay.
“What we need at Liverpool are these kind of players who are leaders,” said Klopp recently on Van Dijk’s influence.
The Dutch captain will be examined to the full at the Etihad, though, where Liverpool lost 5-0 earlier in the season.
“They have so much quality, they are going to win the league that’s pretty clear, that’s not for no reason,” said Van Dijk on Tuesday.
“We feel we are in a great moment at the moment and I think we can make it difficult for any team in the world.
“But we still need to show it, be ready for a fight, ready for a big game.”
Klopp’s men were also thrashed 4-1 by Tottenham and involved in thrilling 3-3 draws at Arsenal and Sevilla as they were routinely torn apart on their toughest travels before Van Dijk’s arrival.
Often overshadowed by the prolific front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane at the other end of the field, Liverpool’s improvement at the back, though, is not down to Van Dijk alone.
All those early-season collapses on the road also came prior to Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold establishing themselves as Klopp’s first-choice full-backs.
Despite their more illustrious history, Liverpool struggle to compete financially with Abu-Dhabi backed City’s budget.
Even Van Dijk’s signing was financed by the £142 million sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona in January.
But Liverpool have proved far more adept at finding bargain solutions.
City spent over £130 million on full-backs alone last summer in buying Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo.
By contrast, Robertson was a £10 million pick-up from Hull City, who were relegated from the Premier League last season, whilst Alexander-Arnold has been at the club since the age of six.
“We know as a team we can defend very well,” added Van Dijk. “Pretty compact as you could see in the second half against them (in the first leg.)”
Alexander-Arnold was constantly targeted by City up against the pace and trickery of £37 million German international Leroy Sane.
Yet, rather than being intimidated by the opposition, or the frenzied atmosphere of Anfield on a big European night, the 19-year-old right-back produced the performance of his career to date in nullifying Sane and winning man-of-the-match.
“It’s really pretty rare that Sane had pretty much nothing for finishing, making goals, stuff like that,” said Klopp afterwards. “It was outstandingly good, to be honest.”
Patience was also key with Robertson. The Scot found himself sidelined for the majority of the first half of the season until an injury to Alberto Moreno in December handed him a run in the side.
Five-time European Cup winners, Liverpool have waited a decade to get back into the Champions League semi-finals. But as Van Dijk shows, good things come to those who wait.
Liverpool’s successful pursuit of Virgil van Dijk will end the year on a high note for Jurgen Klopp’s club as they face Leicester in the Premier League on Saturday.
The £75 million fee ($100 million) – a world record for a defender – which Liverpool agreed with Southampton for the Dutch international this week addresses some of their shortcomings at the back.
Even before Van Dijk’s capture, Klopp’s side were well on course for a top-four finish and Champions League qualification thanks to their fearsome forward line.
A 5-0 Boxing Day thrashing of a woeful Swansea side took Liverpool’s goal total to 12 in three games, and extended their unbeaten league run to 11 matches.
If only their defence had not fallen apart in a 3-3 draw at Arsenal four days earlier, Liverpool might be in an even more comfortable position.
Their attack, though, is ruthless at present.
Roberto Firmino has scored four in Liverpool’s last three matches, Philippe Coutinho three and Mohamed Salah two.
Coutinho’s sublime finish for the opening goal against Swansea gave Barcelona yet another reason to try to buy him in January.
Liverpool managed to fend off three bids during July and August, but it increasingly appears as if the best they can hope for now is to hang on to him until the end of this season.
For now, though, Klopp can make full use of those attacking options, and may well be tempted to rotate them as Liverpool face up to three games in seven days, with the Leicester match followed by a league trip to Burnley on Monday and an FA Cup home tie against Everton the following Friday.
Sadio Mane, an unused substitute against Swansea, is the likeliest candidate to come in, although Dominic Solanke is another option, while Daniel Sturridge is also set to be available after being absent on Boxing Day because of illness.
Klopp had to readjust his midfield against Swansea, with captain Jordan Henderson out until February because of a hamstring injury.
That gave Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain only his sixth Premier League start for the club, and he enhanced his chances of a seventh by scoring his third goal of the season.
– Selection dilemma –
Liverpool’s manager does still not seem entirely sure who his first-choice defenders are, although Joel Matip was selected ahead of Dejan Lovren on Boxing Day, making his first appearance after four weeks out with a thigh injury.
Academy graduate Trent Alexander-Arnold, selected in place of Joe Gomez at right-back, responded by scoring at Anfield for the first time, and is hoping to keep his place for the busy run of fixtures ahead, especially with van Dijk due to join his club on New Year’s Day.
Alexander-Arnold said: “It’s huge because there are two competitions, three games in quick succession, and we need to get the results and the points on board and that’s what we’ll look to do.
“We know it’s important to reflect on the Swansea game, pick up some points to take forward for us, but also leave it behind us because there are plenty more games to come.”
Leicester manager Claude Puel is delighted his side will not have to face Van Dijk, who played for him at Southampton, but he is backing the Dutchman to become a huge success at Anfield.
“I am happy for him and happy he can’t play against us, which is a good thing,” Puel said.
“It is fantastic possibility for Liverpool. He can play in different good teams and it is a good reward for him.
“I don’t know if it is the right price but for me he is a fantastic player, a fantastic defender.
“He is one of the best defenders in the world and he has all the qualities to become the best.”
Manchester City striker, Sergio Aguero, and Southampton manager, Ronald Koeman, have been named the Premier League’s Player and Manager of the Month.
Both completed individual hat-tricks after winning the Barclays awards for the third time.
Five goals and one assist in January helped Aguero to claim the Barclays Player of the Month award for a third time. The previous occasions were in October 2013 and November 2014.
Aguero, who won the Barclays Golden Boot last season, scored once against Watford and twice each against Crystal Palace and West Ham United in January.
He completed 70 successful passes and had a shooting accuracy of 57% in his 349 minutes played in the month.
The 27-year-old Argentinian beat Sunderland’s Jermain Defoe, Liverpool forward, Roberto Firmino, Tottenham Hotspur midfielder, Dele Alli, the Leicester City goalkeeper, Kasper Schmeichel, and Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk to the award.
Koeman is the only Dutchman to have won the award and scooped his third Barclays Manager of the Month trophy thanks to victories by Southampton over Watford, West Bromwich Albion and Manchester United in January.
He piped Man City manager, Manuel Pellegrini, West Ham’s Slaven Bilic and Spurs head coach, Mauricio Pochettino, to the accolade, which he previously won in September 2014 and January 2015.