Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk believes a defender potentially winning the Ballon d’Or should no longer be a pipe dream.
Since the prestigious award was introduced by France Football magazine in 1956 no fewer than three defenders have gone on to earn the accolade, with 2006 recipient Fabio Cannavaro being the most recent.
Following a stellar year which saw the Dutch international play a pivotal role in Jurgen Klopp’s side winning the European Cup as well as Oranje reaching the inaugural Uefa Nations League final, many are championing Van Dijk to end the 13-year wait.
However, there’s fierce competition in the shape of five-time holder Lionel Messi, who recently took home a sixth European Golden Shoe with Van Dijk himself backing Barcelona’s No. 10.
But given the unequal distribution of the award, traditionally heavily favouring attacking players, Van Dijk – who his peers in England voted as the PFA Players’ Player of the Year – believes it’s time for a change.
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“To get the PFA Player of the Year is a fantastic honour, it’s the highest honour you can get because it’s voted by your fellow peers,” he told Liverpool’s official website.
“I said it back then as well, I would trade it for the Champions League. Luckily, I didn’t have to. It’s an honour if people are talking about [the Ballon d’Or], but what can I do? I have no influence on anything.
“I can’t deny I had a pretty good season last year, so the only thing I can do now is just focus on the new season, getting fit, stay fit and hopefully get an even better season than I had last year. I can understand the fact that normally strikers or No. 10’s win these awards because it’s more attractive to see. But maybe the time has come to change it.”
Move over Messi? Five key things to know…
- Since the Ballon d’Or was created in 1956 only three ‘defenders’ have lifted the prize.
- Franz Beckenbauer won it twice (1972 and 1976) before Matthias Sammer (1996) and Fabio Cannavaro (2006).
- Van Dijk lifted the European Cup, playing a pivotal role for Liverpool, as well as leading Oranje to the first Uefa Nations League final.
- Lionel Messi, chasing a sixth crown, is the favourite to win this year’s prize.
- If Van Dijk wins he’ll become the second Liverpool player to win after Michael Owen (2001).