Virgil van Dijk Backs Lionel Messi for Ballon d'Or After Liverpool Win UCL

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistJune 2, 2019

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 01: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona and Virgil Van Dijk of Liverpool compete for the ball during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final first leg match between Barcelona and Liverpool at the Nou Camp on May 1, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk believes Barcelona's Lionel Messi deserves to win the Ballon d'Or over him despite the Dutchman's sterling performance in the Reds' 2-0 UEFA Champions League final win over Tottenham Hotspur.

The former Celtic and Southampton star was a key man for the team all season and once again starred on Saturday, but after the match, he still backed Messi to win the individual award, per Goal: "I think Messi is the best player in the world. He should win the Ballon d'Or. So I'm not thinking of that. But if I win, I'll take it. Messi should win it though. He is the best in the world, whether he's in the final or not."

The Mirror shared video of the interview:

Mirror Football @MirrorFootball

✅ Champions League ✅Player of the Year ...Ballon d'Or? 👀 #YNWA https://t.co/Sik60ndRKg

Mohamed Salah gave Liverpool an early lead from the penalty spot on Saturday, and Divock Origi bagged a goal late on to secure the Reds their sixth Champions League triumph.

Van Dijk lived up to the lofty standards he's set since joining Liverpool in January 2018, shutting down a Spurs attack led by Harry Kane throughout the contest.

It was the end to a superb campaign for the 27-year-old:

OptaJoe @OptaJoe

0 - No opposition player has completed a dribble past Virgil van Dijk in any of his last 64 appearances in all competitions for Liverpool. Rock. #UCLFinal https://t.co/VlviY2ohRH

Former Saints team-mate Charlie Austin praised the Dutchman:

Charlie Austin @chazaustin10

Congratulations @VirgilvDijk best centre half in the world

Van Dijk has already won several individual awards for his play in the Premier League this season, including the PFA Players' Player of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season. On top of that, he and his team-mates knocked Messi and Barcelona out of the Champions League in the semi-finals.

The Argentinian was masterful in the first leg, scoring twice in a 3-0 win. But he didn't get on the scoresheet in the return leg, a 4-0 loss.

MADRID, SPAIN - JUNE 1: Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool FC, with the trophy during the UEFA Champions League  match between Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool at the Wanda Metropolitano on June 1, 2019 in Madrid Spain (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

The Champions League win over the Blaugrana could be a huge factor in Van Dijk's bid to win the Ballon d'Or, as the winner of the award has played in the final in the past five years. Messi has already won it five times, his most recent coming in 2015.

Both players will be in action in major tournaments this summer, as Van Dijk and the Netherlands have qualified for the UEFA Nations League finals and Messi and Argentina will feature in the Copa America. The latter tournament carries more prestige.

Messi's biggest individual accomplishment of the season was winning yet another Golden Shoe after scoring 36 La Liga goals:

B/R Football @brfootball

Leo Messi wins his SIXTH European Golden Shoe 🤯 https://t.co/0XhHyTK6cR

He also guided Barcelona to a dominant title run in La Liga, with the Blaugrana finishing 11 points ahead of runners-up Atletico Madrid and 19 ahead of Real Madrid.

Liverpool fell just short in their own domestic title push, finishing one point behind champions Manchester City.