Football News

What makes Virgil van Dijk so hard to beat, in the words of Lionel Messi

By Steve Jennings

Published: 16:10, 17 October 2019

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi has explained why Virgil van Dijk is so hard to beat, pointing to the Liverpool defender’s timing, pace and size.

Van Dijk beat Messi to the Uefa Player of the Season award for 2018/19, but the Barcelona forward recently saw off competition from the Dutch centre-back and Cristiano Ronaldo to win Fifa’s The Best Men’s Player award for 2019.

Is Van Dijk a match for Messi? Five things to know…

  • Messi scored twice against Liverpool in the Champions League semi-final first leg last season.
  • But Van Dijk oversaw a crucial clean sheet in the second leg as Liverpool pulled off a famous comeback.
  • The pair will compete with Cristiano Ronaldo for the 2019 Ballon d’Or in the near future.
  • Having won The Best Men’s Player at the Fifa awards recently, Messi would be a worthy winner.
  • But Van Dijk’s Champions League win and ongoing top-class performances puts him among the favourites.

On the pitch, the duo went head-to-head in the Champions League semi-finals last season. Messi scored twice in the first leg before Van Dijk helped Liverpool keep a clean sheet in the second and progress to the final.

As a result of his performances since joining Liverpool, Van Dijk is currently considered the world’s best defender.

Speaking to Marca, Messi listed Van Dijk’s best traits when asked why the Dutchman is so difficult to beat.

“He is a defender who knows how to judge his timing and wait for the right moment to challenge or jockey [the attacker],” Messi said.

“He is very fast and big, but he has a lot of agility for his height. He is fast because of his great stride, and he is impressive both in defence and attack because he scores lots of goals.”

Messi and Van Dijk will be in competition with each other again soon as they both push to win the 2019 Ballon d’Or.

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“I don’t need to leave the best club in the world”

Van Dijk may be threatening Messi’s crown at present, but Cristiano Ronaldo has been pushing the Argentinian for years and continues to do so even after leaving La Liga for Italy.

Asked if he would ever take Ronaldo’s recommendation to leave his comfort zone with Barcelona and play in another country, Messi insisted he is happy at Camp Nou.

He added: “Everyone looks for their targets and their experiences. I never had the need to leave the best club in the world, that Barcelona are, and where I enjoy training, games and the city.

“[The city to club dynamic] is very complete and I was always sure about the targets at this club [rather than going to] look for it elsewhere.”

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