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Virgil van Dijk Talks Ballon d'Or Loss to Lionel Messi, Mutual Respect

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2019

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 01: Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool and Lionel Messi of Barcelona in action during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final first leg match between Barcelona and Liverpool at the Nou Camp on May 01, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has opened up on his disappointment at missing out on the 2019 Ballon d'Or to Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

The Dutchman finished second to the Argentinian in the voting, after which he expressed his pride in coming second:

Goal @goal

1️⃣ Lionel Messi 2️⃣ Virgil van Dijk 3️⃣ Cristiano Ronaldo The Liverpool defender is staying humble 💯 https://t.co/EV951FBt5U

Per the Mirror's Simon Mullock, however, it's clear he was hopeful of winning it:

"I was slightly disappointed. I decided I would still go to the ceremony and, in the end, it was a super night. 

"I still consider it a great achievement to be up there with the ­biggest football icons in the world.

"I spoke to Messi during the ­evening. It was not the longest ­conversation because he doesn't speak a lot of English. 

"But it was still enough to make me realise that the respect between us now also runs the other way."

It was a very close-run contest between the pair for the award:

B/R Football @brfootball

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

Van Dijk has played a key role in Liverpool's success in 2019, the pinnacle of which was their victorious UEFA Champions League campaign.

The defender had backed Messi to win the Ballon d'Or in the aftermath of Liverpool's 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in the final:

Mirror Football @MirrorFootball

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

He also helped Liverpool end last season with 97 points in the Premier League and get off to a superb start this season. The unbeaten Reds have 49 points from 17 matches in this campaign, having won 16 of them.

On Saturday they also lifted the FIFA Club World Cup, though that was of course too late to help him in the voting as the Ballon d'Or was handed out on December 2.

As for Messi, at the time of the award being given, he had returned 46 goals and 18 assists for club and country this year.

He has since added another assist and four more goals to his tally:

B/R Football @brfootball

10 years. 579 goals. 50+ goals in 9 out of 10 calendar years. Leo Messi's decade is done 🌟 https://t.co/BhoyudqEAA

Historically, it has always been difficult for defensive players to compete with attackers when it comes to individual awards. Fabio Cannavaro was the last defender to win the Ballon d'Or in 2006, but he had to win the World Cup to do so.

It's especially difficult to compare those in that position with a player who contributes as much going forward as Messi, particularly when the 32-year-old's consistency has normalised the astonishing levels at which he operates.

Messi remains the best in the world and likely will for some time, but his domination of the Ballon d'Or alongside Cristiano Ronaldo—between them they've won 11 of the last 12—will soon be at an end.

At that point, Van Dijk could well be among the top contenders, but he'll still have to compete with attacking stars like Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe or Neymar to bring it home, so it won't get much easier.