Ronald Koeman reckons the upcoming clash between superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk must not overshadow the UEFA Nations League final.
Van Dijk’s impressive performances for Liverpool last season played a decisive role in their Champions League triumph. It’s also enabled him to build himself a strong case for the 2019 Ballon d’Or award.
And the 27-year-old’s claim for football’s most highly coveted individual award will only grow stronger should he help the Netherlands win the Nations League final on Sunday against Portugal.
However, Van Dijk’s credentials will be put to the test against five-time winner Ronaldo who will be under pressure to deliver for Portugal on home soil.
But Koeman reminded fans it’s a final between Portugal and Holland – not Ronaldo and Van Dijk.
“It isn’t a battle between two players, it’s Portugal and Holland,” said Koeman, according to OneFootball.
“We know it’s impossible sometimes to have good defending against Cristiano Ronaldo but we want to keep the ball, with good possession, as then he can do nothing in attack.
“We don’t stop after tonight. There’s always something to improve, but we are in a good way, the team is happy and confident in the way we like to play.
“We have big talents coming through, experience in the team, two players who won the Champions League, this experience to play and win a semi-final, then play the final on Sunday, it makes everything much easier.”
The Holland manager also singled out Frenkie de Jong’s defensive aptitude for praise following their 3-1 semi-final win over England on Thursday.
The Barcelona-bound playmaker starred once again as he made 105 passes and 128 touches to help the Oranje come from a goal down to win after extra-time.
“Of course he was player of the match, it was well deserved,” said Koeman.
“Most of the people are always looking at what he does with the ball, how calm he is, but in defence how many balls he is winning in midfield – it’s fantastic to see Frenkie play like this.
“It looks so easy but it isn’t, it was really well deserved tonight.”
The Nations League final between Portugal and Holland will take place in Porto on Sunday.