MANCHESTER, England - Manchester City's Rúben Dias was named England's Footballer of the Year on Thursday in the annual vote of the Football Writers' Association (FWA), making him the first defender to win the award since Steve Nicol in 1989.
The 24-year-old Portugal center back beat Totenham's Harry Kane and City teammate Kevin De Bruyne in the voting, with nine players from the Premier League winners receiving more than 50% of the total votes cast.
Dias signed for City from Benfica for a fee of $82.85 million in September, two days after the club had suffered a 5-2 home defeat by Leicester City. The imposing defender has transformed City's backline, forming a commanding partnership with John Stones which has helped the club to a third league title in four seasons under manager Pep Guardiola, in part thanks to the best defensive record in the league.
"It means something special because normally, the ones who finish the plays are the ones getting the spotlight but me receiving this prize is a major example of our team and the way we work – the way we build our game. It reflects all the togetherness we have on the pitch, the spirit in the team and how we perform," Dias said. "With these players, for me to be receiving this award, it shows how we play like a family."
Dias is only the third player to win the honor in his first season at a club, following German Jürgen Klinsmann of Tottenham (1994-95) and Italian Gianfranco Zola of Chelsea (1996-97).
Chelsea and England forward Fran Kirby won the FWA Women's Footballer of the Year award last week.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)