Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk has been named UEFA Men’s Player of the Year for 2018/19.
The 28-year-old Holland international beat Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus to win the award after playing a starring role for Liverpool in their triumphant Champions League campaign.
The former Celtic and Southampton centre-half, who succeeded Real Madrid’s Luka Modric as Europe’s top player, was man of the match in the Champions League final win against Tottenham.
He was also named PFA Player’s Player of the Year in April after leading Liverpool to a second-placed finish in the Premier League.
Liverpool signed Van Dijk for a reported fee of £75million from Southampton on New Year’s Day 2018 and the following October he was installed as captain by manager Jurgen Klopp after a players’ vote.
The Dutchman has added both much-needed steel, as well as guile, to Liverpool’s defence and is widely regarded as one of the world’s best central defenders.
Liverpool have dismissed the claims of an agent who accused them of “mentally bullying” teenage prospect Bobby Duncan and breaking a promise to allow him to leave the club this summer.
Striker Duncan, the 18-year-old cousin of Steven Gerrard, has been linked with the likes of Fiorentina and FC Nordsjaelland in recent days as he seeks first-team football, but Liverpool reportedly rejected a £1.6million bid from the Florence club on Tuesday, calling it derisory.
Duncan scored 32 goals for Liverpool’s under-18s last season after joining from Manchester City and was on target against Tranmere in a pre-season friendly, but is thought to be frustrated at a lack of first-team opportunities.
On Wednesday, Duncan’s representative Saif Rubie posted a lengthy statement on social media claiming Liverpool had previously agreed to allow the England Under-18 international to move on this summer and claiming the current impasse is threatening his client’s mental health.
Rubie wrote that Duncan missed the Liverpool Under-23 game against Southampton on Monday due to “deep mental health issues” because of the “stress of being told he can leave the club but (the club) then going out of their way to force him to stay against his will”.
Rubie added: “Bobby has not left his room for days because of this and will never go back to Liverpool again and my only concern now is his mental health and well-being.
“The Liverpool hierarchy have shown zero consideration to that and have even gone (as) far as saying in writing that they will punish him and make him stay at the club until January and beyond to teach him a lesson…
“It’s a sad state of affairs that a club such as a Liverpool can be allowed to get away with mentally bullying and destroying the life of a young man such as Bobby.”
But Liverpool strongly rejected Rubie’s claims in a statement.
“Liverpool Football Club is aware of and disappointed by the unattributed comments and unfounded allegations that have been made in the media regarding one of our players,” the statement said.
“As the interests of the player in question are not best served by either inaccurate speculation, inflammatory statements or public discourse, we will be making no further comment.
“We will, however, continue our efforts to work privately with the player to find resolution in the best interests of all involved.”
I know Bobby & his family well, he’s young & at that age we all want everything right now. Played for the 1st team in pre season which is a great start & he should try & develop this season & maybe make the bench in Caraboa Cup. That should be the advice you’re giving him you 🤡 https://t.co/RqXd9eupc1— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) August 28, 2019
Former Liverpool player Jamie Carragher replied to Rubie’s post on social media, saying: “I know Bobby and his family well, he’s young and at that age we all want everything right now.
“Played for the first team in pre-season which is a great start and he should try and develop this season and maybe make the bench in the Carabao Cup.
“That should be the advice you’re giving him you (clown emoji)”.
Egyptian star Mohamed Salah may be setting European and English football alight now but when he arrived in Switzerland he cast a few doubts in the mind of his first coach Heiko Vogel.
The 27-year-old forward – an integral part of Liverpool’s Champions League success last season – has started the campaign in flying form scoring a double in last Sunday’s win over Arsenal.
Vogel, though, told the German SPOX website he wondered whether Salah had the mental strength to succeed when he asked him to come for a week long trial in 2012 – on the back of scoring a double for the Egyptian Under-23 side against Basel in a friendly.
“It was always clear to me that he is an outstanding player, but whether he had the mentality? I didn’t know that exactly,” said Vogel.
“Momo is a gentle killer.
“I would be lying if I had prophesied such a massive global career for him.”
Vogel then asked Basel’s scouts in Egypt to confirm his potential by taking video footage of him.
“I wondered whether the videos had been speeded up,” he said.
“He had everything – the speed, the finish, the left foot.
“Then he trained on the first day (in Switzerland); everyone watched the session and we wondered if he might have a twin brother.”
Vogel, who picks out Arsenal’s Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka as the most impressive of the Premier League-based stars he coached at Basel with Salah and his Liverpool team-mate Xherdan Shaqiri the other two, said things progressively got better.
“The second day was a bit better, but not good.
“And then came the third day. It was then that he destroyed everything, he was really unstoppable.
“It was absolutely extraordinary. He was so agile, so explosive. If he had the ball on his left foot, it was a goal.
“After that performance everyone knew why we wanted to sign him.”
Vogel, who was sacked on October 2012 only months after clinching the domestic double, said Salah’s difficulties were understandable.
“Momo was very sure of himself, but he was immersed in a new world,” said Vogel.
“He had to acclimatise, in the most literal sense of the word.
“He came to us from the heat of North Africa. It is always difficult when you come into an environment where you don’t speak the language.”
Salah, though was keen as mustard to learn German something which Vogel did his best to dissuade him from doing.
“He couldn’t speak English at all,” said the 43-year-old German, who is presently coaching third tier German side KFC Uerdingen.
“He wanted to learn German but I said to him: ‘Slow down, champion. German is difficult. Learn English, that’ll be enough for you.’
“Momo had a really great agent there who could speak English, so we spoke through him.”