For years, it has almost always been the forwards. Last year, Luka Modric took the crown away from Cristiano Ronaldo, who had been in a tug-of-war with Lionel Messi for this award. Franck Ribery and Andres Iniesta were the other winners of this award this decade but never has a defender won it… until Virgil Vbn Dijk earned the honour last night.

The ​Liverpool defender was recognized as the best player by UEFA and rightfully so as he has been crucial to the Reds’ turn in fortune. Ever since the Dutchman joined the Merseyside outfit, they have been on the rise.

In his first half-season at Liverpool, he helped the club reach the Champions League final. In his first full-season with the Reds, he helped them win it – and he did with command.

No player was able to dribble past was the man-mountain for the entirety of last season as he displayed his superiority over his opponents. In a game dominated by the forwards, a feat of this sort is not only incredible but was also necessary for a defender to come into the limelight.

The inability of players to dribble past the former Saints star became somewhat of an urban legend among football fans and when Nicholas Pepe was finally able to break the streak, it caused an uproar in the internet football fans community.

It was a testament of how much Van Dijk had established himself as the best defender in the world that something as small as being dribbled past him was being cherished and celebrated.

Before he came to Anfield, Liverpool had one of the worst defences. After his arrival, however, he has turned the whole back-line into a world-class unit as his leadership in defence allows the whole system to defend properly.

He is not just an individually world-class defender – he makes others around him brilliant, too.

As a result, UEFA recognizing him as the best player this year is a step in the right direction as it gives defenders the limelight that they deserve. It didn’t come easily for Van Dijk as he had to ensure that no-one went past him – and also win the Champions League, of course – but this achievement opens the doors for other defenders to believe.

Maybe, just maybe, we will have a defender winning the Ballon d’Or for the first time since Fabio Cannavaro.