Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Virgil van Dijk Among 2019 Ballon d'Or Nominees

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistOctober 21, 2019

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02: Virgil Van Dijk of FC Liverpool looks on prior to the UEFA Champions League group E match between Liverpool FC and RB Salzburg at Anfield on October 2, 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
TF-Images/Getty Images

Virgil van Dijk headlines a group of seven Liverpool players nominated for the 2019 Ballon d'Or after France Football (h/t MailOnline's Jordan Seward and Ollie Lewis) named the 30 contenders for the prestigious individual prize on Monday, while regular award rivals Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi also made the list:

B/R Football @brfootball

The full list of all 30 #ballondor nominees 🏆 https://t.co/WyeAlqAP3J

The Premier League was well-represented thanks to the inclusion of Van Dijk's team-mates Roberto Firmino, Alisson Becker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Georginio Wijnaldum, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.  

Liverpool's contingent are joined by rivals from Manchester City, including Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne. However, there was no place for Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane among the nominees, while 2018 winner and Real Madrid playmaker Luka Modric also missed out.

Voting will end on November 8 and be undertaken by various journalists, who will also vote for the Women's award, as well as the inaugural Yashin Trophy given to the best goalkeeper in World Football. Meanwhile, past winners of the Ballon d'Or will cast votes for the Kopa Trophy, given to the top under-21 player on the planet.

#BallondOr @francefootball

Let's recap the rules! 🧠🤓 Who will vote? ⤵️ #ballondor https://t.co/6E4qW8s1GW

The nominees list for the women's award features a quartet from the U.S. national team victorious at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France this summer. They include Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, while Netherlands and Arsenal forward Vivianne Miedema also features:

B/R Football @brfootball

The nominees for the 2019 women’s #ballondor are all set! 🔥 https://t.co/EP7uCGYQzV

Liverpool's Alisson leads the stoppers in contention for the prize named after former Dyanmo Moscow great Lev Yashin:

B/R Football @brfootball

The best goalkeepers in the world, nominated for the #yachinetrophy 🧤 https://t.co/QCTDzzGAw2

The Kopa award will be one of the more intriguing and tougher votes given the quality of the nominees. Juventus centre-back Matthijs de Ligt and Atletico Madrid forward Joao Felix headline this group:

B/R Football @brfootball

The #kopatrophy nominees—football's young stars 🌟 https://t.co/0SmngAUFln

Van Dijk and Barcelona attacking talisman Messi have the strongest case to pick up the men's trophy when the awards ceremony takes place in Paris, France December 2. Liverpool's best defender took the UEFA Men's Player of the Year award back in August, after helping the Reds life the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Super Cup.

Messi countered by being handed the Best FIFA Men's Player award a month later. Van Dijk appeared the clear choice, but Messi had turned heads during a typically prolific 2018/19 campaign that had yielded 36 goals and 13 assists in La Liga.

Those goals helped Messi claim another Golden Shoe prize recently as the leading scorer in Europe, a familiar feat for the remarkable No. 10:

B/R Football @brfootball

Lionel Messi has dominated the last decade of #GoldenShoe winners 👏 https://t.co/iYwOz6a5xa

Barca won the Spanish top-flight title again last season, maintaining the club's prodigious haul of silverware since Messi became the fulcrum of the team:


Lionel Messi has brought plenty of titles to Barcelona since his debut in 2004 🏆 https://t.co/Myfhr4YNiM


Lionel Messi on his favourite goal: “The one in Rome in the Champions League final against Manchester United." https://t.co/7hFE4EX3wa

Beating Messi to the prize won't be easy for Van Dijk, especially since a defender hasn't taken home a Ballon d'Or since Fabio Cannavaro in 2007. He was fresh off helping Italy win a FIFA World Cup.

Even so, it's hard to look past Van Dijk's achievements at club level, where he's somehow made the £75 million Liverpool paid Southampton in the winter of 2018 seem a bargain:

Sky Sports Statto @SkySportsStatto

📊 @VirgilvDijk has started 60 of Liverpool’s 61 PL games since he signed in Jan 2018 - this is how they have performed compared to the 61 PL matches beforehand https://t.co/5qaUS1LFE6

It's not unreasonable to say Van Dijk has been as significant to his team's success as any striker would be. Unfortunately for the Dutchman, one of the strikers in his own squad favours Messi for this award:

Goal @goal

Messi ❤️ Mane, Mane ❤️ Messi “It’s a great compliment when Messi votes for you [at The Best awards]. If you look at where I’ve come from, it shows I’ve come quite far. "Virgil [Van Dijk] is a great, great player but sorry Virgil, it has to be Messi before you.” https://t.co/NrYOGNhWqQ

Ronaldo is also likely to garner some support from fellow players after earning a 16th nomination. He wasn't in vintage form during his first season with Juventus, but the 34-year-old still helped himself to 27 goals in Serie A and Champions League action.

He wasn't able to add another Champions League trophy to the five he won with Manchester United and Real Madrid. Juve were sent packing by Ajax and Ronaldo's soon-to-be team-mate De Ligt, the 20-year-old who headlines the Kopa award nominees, along with Felix.

The latter has been making a positive impression since joining Atleti from Benfica in a deal worth €126 million.

#BallondOr @francefootball

Among the nominees for the 2019 #ballondor ⤵️ @joaofelix70 @Atleti https://t.co/EFG0lWW728

Felix has the potential to be a future winner of the senior award, but for now, this particular vote looks likely to come down to another straight choice between Van Dijk and Messi.