Ronald Koeman: Virgil van Dijk Deserves Ballon d'Or over Lionel Messi

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistJune 4, 2019

MADRID, SPAIN - JUNE 1: Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool FC, with his daughter Nila van Dijk 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 Images)
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Netherlands national team manager Ronald Koeman believes Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk deserves to win this year's Ballon d'Or, saying his efforts to guide the Reds to the UEFA Champions League title should see him past Barcelona's Lionel Messi

Koeman believes Messi is the best player in the world, but "big trophies" are a key factor in awarding the honour, per Goal's John Skilbeck:

"He deserves to win the Ballon d'Or.

"It's usually handed to players who make or create decisive goals, but if there ever is a time to give it to a defender, it is now.

"In my opinion Messi is the best player. But I also think you should win big trophies with your team to be a contestant."

Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated the award in recent years, winning five each between 2008 and 2017 until Luka Modric broke up their streak last year. No defender has won the award since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.

Van Dijk believes Messi should claim a record sixth Ballon d'Or this year:

Mirror Football @MirrorFootball

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

The Dutchman won his first piece of silverware with the Reds on Saturday in the 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League final. Mohamed Salah scored the opener from the penalty spot after just two minutes, and Divock Origi added a second goal late in the contest.

Van Dijk was his usual, dominant self, shutting down an attack that had scored three goals against Ajax in the second leg of their semi-final win.

It marked the conclusion of a phenomenal club season 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

Compatriot Memphis Depay hopes he can carry that form into the Nations League finals, as Netherlands can add a trophy of their own in June:

Memphis @Memphis

So proud of @GWijnaldum and @VirgilvDijk on winning the @ChampionsLeague, y’all did it!!! Now let’s bring them winning ways to Portugal as we go again on Thursday! @OnsOranje 🇳🇱🔥⚽️ https://t.co/kRZqvaBE7D

Netherlands will face England for a spot in the final of this year's Nations League on Thursday. The winner will take on the victor of the match between Switzerland and Portugal, to be played on Sunday.

Success in Portugal could be another boost for Van Dijk's bid, as Messi will also be in action this summer and can win his first major trophy with Argentina since claiming gold at the 2008 Summer Olympics. The Albiceleste will face Colombia, Paraguay and Qatar in the group stages of this year's Copa America.

Messi has already won La Liga this season, scoring 36 goals as the Blaugrana defended their title. He also bagged his third straight Golden Shoe:

OptaJose @OptaJose

3 - Lionel Messi is the only player to win the Golden Shoe in three consecutive seasons (36 goals in 2018/19, 34 in 2017/18 and 37 in 2016/17). Culmination. https://t.co/cQufBusw0f

Van Dijk got the upper hand in a head-to-head between the two, however, knocking Barcelona out of the Champions League in an epic semi-final tie. Messi bagged a brace in a 3-0 win in Spain, but he and his team-mates lost 4-0 at Anfield in the return leg.