Virgil van Dijk has beaten Raheem Sterling to become the Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year for 2019.
But perhaps the biggest surprise is the inclusion of Manchester United’s Paul Pogba in a PFA Team of the Year that does not include Chelsea’s Eden Hazard.
The official announcement is due on Friday and, according to reports from England, Liverpool centre half Van Dijk has won the backing of his fellow professionals for his outstanding contribution in the best defence in the Premier League this season. As well as losing only one game in the League so far, they have kept an impressive 18 clean sheets.
The Dutchman was on a six-man shortlist that included his Anfield team-mate Sadio Mane as well as Sterling, fellow Manchester City players Sergio Aguero and Bernardo Silva and Hazard.
And while five of those shortlisted are in the team of the year, Hazard has been excluded in a team that includes Pogba despite a lack of consistency for Manchester United this season.
Pogba is the only player outside Liverpool and City to make the XI, with six City and four Liverpool players reflecting the dominance of the clubs battling for this season’s Premier League title.
Ederson, Aymeric Laporte, Fernandinho, Bernardo Silva, Aguero, and Sterling are the City six, and Van Dijk is joined by Mane and Liverpool’s full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.
It’s the first time in the 45-year history of the award that the team has been selected from just three clubs.
Victory for Van Dijk means the prize remains with Liverpool, following Mohamed Salah’s win last season. Other Liverpool players to have been awarded the honour are Luis Suarez (2013-14), Steven Gerrard (2005-06), John Barnes (1987-88), Ian Rush (1983-84), Kenny Dalglish (1982-83) and Terry McDermott (1979-80).
The PFA Awards will be held in London this Sunday.