Barcelona legend and Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman has tipped Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk to clinch the 2019 Ballon d’Or ahead of Lionel Messi.
Van Dijk, 27, played a star role as the Reds clinched a sixth European crown last weekend, beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in the Champions League final.
Does Van Dijk deserve the Ballon d’Or? Five key things to know…
- Since joining Liverpool from Southampton in January 2018, Jurgen Klopp’s defence has been almost impenetrable.
- Liverpool conceded just 22 league goals in 2018/19 as the club finished runners-up with the third-best points total in the history of the competition.
- Van Dijk was integral to that success, keeping the second-most clean sheets (20) of any player in the league.
- As a reward for his fine form he clinched the Premier League Player of the Season and PFA Players’ Player of the Year.
- Last weekend he helped guide Liverpool to a Champions League triumph in Madrid, and Koeman believes his skipper deserves the coveted Ballon d’Or gong as a result.
Since Van Dijk pitched up at Anfield, Liverpool’s defence has transformed from leaky to watertight, and the Dutch centre-back has been the catalyst in that revamp.
His exploits helped keep a clean sheet at the Wanda Metropolitano, and he was immediately named as UEFA’s Man of the Match, capping off a quite breathtaking season for the mountainous centre-back.
And while many have shown support for Van Dijk – including former winger John Barnes – to secure the Ballon d’Or later this year, the former Celtic defender provided his own ringing endorsement of Barca ace Messi.
“I think Messi is the best player in the world and I think he deserves it as long as he plays,” he said recently.
But national coach Koeman believes there will be no greater opportunity to award the Ballon d’Or to a defender, suggesting Van Dijk’s continental silverware puts him above Messi in the rankings.
“He deserves the Ballon d’Or,” Koeman told Oranje’s official YouTube channel.
“Everyone is often focused on players who score or create goals, or produce decisive goals.
“If there is ever a moment to give the Ballon d’Or to a defender, it is now.
“Messi is the best player but I also think you should win big trophies such as the Champions League to be in the picture for the Ballon d’Or.”
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Van Dijk shows support for De Ligt amid transfer links
Ajax’s teenage sensation Matthijs de Ligt is one of Europe’s most sought-after players having produced a number of formidable displays during the Dutch club’s Champions League semi-final run.
At just 19, the wonderkid is a mainstay in the Dutch defence, regularly partnering Van Dijk in Koeman’s starting XI, which has prompted speculation of a move to Merseyside.
De Ligt has also been linked with possible transfers to Barcelona and Juventus, with the former his likely destination, but Van Dijk has said that whatever decision his international teammate makes, it will be the right one.
Van Dijk said: “I think Matthijs is a fantastic player and any decision he makes will be the right one for him.”