«It’s pretty difficult to put into words,» the Dutchman said.
«I think it’s the highest honour you can get as a player to get voted player of the year by the players you play against every week. It’s special. I’m very proud and honoured to receive it.»
The 27-year-old van Dijk has helped Liverpool keep 19 clean sheets and concede only 20 times, while also chipping in with three goals.
Liverpool have lost just one league game this season in a title race with champions Manchester City, which is set to go down to the final day of the season.
Only two defenders have previously won the award.
«If you see the standard of strikers or playmakers we have in the league, it’s unbelievable,» van Dijk said.
«If you see the shortlist and quality there is, it’s very special that the players in the league voted for me.
«I won’t take it for granted. It’s just very special.»
Van Dijk was chosen from a shortlist made up of teammate Sadio Mane, the Manchester City trio of Sterling, Sergio Aguero and Bernardo Silva and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard.
Sterling, the 24-year-old England international, came out on top from a young player shortlist which also included teammate Silva, Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold, Bournemouth’s David Brooks and West Ham’s Declan Rice.
Arsenal forward Vivianne Miedema won the Women’s Player of the Year award after scoring 22 times to lead the Gunners to their first title since 2012 while Manchester City forward Georgia Stanway won the Young Player of the Year award.