But the Liverpool manager insisted the prize is recognition of a team effort that helped bring the Champions League trophy to Anfield last season.

Van Dijk was handed the honour in Monaco at the draw for the group stage of this year’s edition of European football’s premier club competition.

“I’m so happy for him; I’m happy for us as well because he knows that without the boys around him, he cannot win that prize. It’s a prize for all of us – but we send our big man there to get it.

“It’s big. It’s really rare for a defender. It’s such important information for football, such an important sign for football. Yes, we all love goals – we want to score them and see them – but more and more and more people get excited about defending.

“Virg is an exceptional defender, in the moment 100 per cent the best defender in the world, so he deserves that prize absolutely.

“It’s now the icing on the cake of the Champions League campaign last year. It’s really big and I’m completely happy for him and his family.”

Van Dijk was also named the best defender in last season’s Champions League at Thursday’s ceremony, joining Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker in earning positional recognition.

And Klopp has no doubts that his Brazilian shot-stopper was a deserving recipient, too.

He added: “Congratulations as well. I would say well, well, well deserved. He had exceptional saves.

“In the final he made it look like all these finishes of Tottenham were so easy to save them – but they were not. He kept his nerves, calmed the game down in the right moment, made it quick in the right moment, saved our lives so often. So it’s so deserved.

Van Dijk and Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker 

“In the first season with us and immediately winning the Champions League. What a year he had, he won the Champions League, won the Copa America and now is the best goalie of last year 100 percent.

“For me, he is the best goalie in the world in the moment. We just have to make sure it stays like this. He is now injured; when he is back, we are all waiting for that already, even when Adrian is doing an incredible job.

“Sending two players there and both winning the competition they are in, it’s big. It’s a really big day for Liverpool.”

Source: Evening Standard