Jurgen Klopp Talks Lionel Messi's Ballon d'Or Win over Virgil van Dijk

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2019

(COMBO) This combination of file photographs created on November 26, 2019, shows Liverpool's Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk (L) looking to pass the ball during the UEFA Champions league Group E football match between Liverpool and Salzburg at Anfield in Liverpool, north-west England on October 2, 2019, Barcelona's Argentine forward Lionel Messi (C) controling the ball during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and RC Celta de Vigo at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on November 9, 2019 and US forward Megan Rapinoe (R) controlling the ball during the women's international friendly football match betwenn the United States and Australia at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado on April 4, 2019. - The Ballon d'Or ceremony will take place on December 2, 2019 in Paris. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS,JASON CONNOLLY,JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images)
PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has hailed both Lionel Messi and Virgil van Dijk after the Barcelona man beat the Reds defender to the Ballon d'Or on Monday.

Messi picked up the award for the sixth time, while Van Dijk—bidding to be the first defender to win it since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006—was runner-up. 

Per Goal's Chris Burton, Klopp said:

"That is how people see it. Absolutely no problem.

"Lionel Messi is probably the best player I saw in my lifetime. [Diego] Maradona, but I see Messi more often. Lionel rightly so won it six times.

"Cannot remember a more impressive season for a defender, ever."

The manager echoed a similar sentiment in November, before the award was handed out:

Goal @goal

Best player of his generation? Messi 🐐 Best player of last season? Van Dijk 👑 Klopp has his say on the Ballon d'Or 👀 https://t.co/zew5nxyfIJ

It was an incredibly close-run contest between the two players in the end:

B/R Football @brfootball

Messi vs. Van Dijk was the closest Ballon d'Or race this century https://t.co/cs4gzuL52k

Van Dijk has enjoyed an impressive calendar year in 2019.

In the second half of last season, he helped the Reds push Manchester City all the way in the Premier League and finish on 97 points. He also played a key role in Liverpool winning the UEFA Champions League, in which they knocked out Messi's Barcelona in the semi-finals.

Overall, Liverpool have kept 16 clean sheets in all competitions in 2019, and Van Dijk has started 14 of them. All but three of those 16 came last season, though—Van Dijk and the rest of the Reds defence haven't been quite as miserly at the back in this campaign.

Football writer Daniel Storey believes Messi was the deserving winner overall, despite Van Dijk's accomplishments:

Daniel Storey @danielstorey85

A boring opinion nobody wants or asked for: Virgil van Dijk made an extraordinary difference to his team in 2019, but Lionel Messi was the better player in the year. Because he's been the best player in pretty much every year of the last decade.

It's hard to argue with his incredible numbers in 2019:

OptaJose @OptaJose

1 - Lionel Messi was involved in 63 goals in 2019 for @FCBarcelona and @Argentina (46 goals and 17 assists), averaging 1'17 per game (GP54). Gold. #BallonDor #BallonDor2019 https://t.co/DEWphX6fKW

Those goals and assists fired Barcelona to their eighth La Liga title in 11 years, the Copa del Rey final and the Champions League semi-finals last season. This season, his efforts have left them top of the table after 14 games.

He also helped Argentina finish third in the Copa America.

Because Messi has been so consistently good for well over a decade, his brilliance has been normalised over the years.

That Van Dijk was able to run him so close is a testament to the exceptional year he's had.