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Opinion: Virgil van Dijk was unlucky not to win the Ballon d’Or

Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool, Ballon dOr
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Virgil van Dijk has every right to lament his near-miss after Lionel Messi pipped him to the 2019 Ballon d’Or award.

Despite a stellar year for Liverpool, Virgil van Dijk had to settle for a runners-up spot in the Ballon d’Or behind Lionel Messi. 

It was somewhat of an unfair blow given all that the Dutchman had achieved in the last 12 months. He was, in many people’s eyes, the rightful winner for this year’s biggest individual award.

Sadly, Van Dijk’s dreams of becoming the 26th Ballon d’Or winner ended on Monday night at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.

But the 28-year-old can still hold his head up high and take pride in all that he’s achieved recently.

Going from a nobody into Europe’s greatest defender

virgil van dijk. champions league, liverpool
MADRID, SPAIN – JUNE 01: Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool lifts the Champions League Trophy after winning the final against Tottenham in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Just four years ago, Van Dijk was practically a nobody in the football world with Scottish club Celtic.

Fast forward to 2019, however, the Dutchman is the world’s best centre-back and a European champion.

Van Dijk’s impact at Liverpool since completing a world-record €84m transfer in January 2018 has been truly sensational. He literally ended the club’s defensive woes, and was the catalyst behind their title charge last season.

While the Reds were unlucky to lose out on the Premier League title by a point to Manchester City, Van Dijk still won plenty of plaudits.

The flawless display against Tottenham in June helped Liverpool win the Champions League.

And let’s not forget either that Jurgen Klopp’s men have reached the final of Europe’s elite club competition twice since Van Dijk arrived.

“It would be unfair to other fantastic central defenders,” said Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho recently on Sky Sports.

“In English football, yes for sure. He has everything and its almost impossible to find a weakness in his game.”

Perhaps, Van Dijk’s biggest impact last season came against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Few fans had their money on Liverpool winning the last-16 tie in Germany after a goalless first-leg home draw. However, Van Dijk was out of this world in the return leg to inspire them to a 3-1 victory.

Keeping Robert Lewandowski at bay was an impressive feat in itself. However, the 28-year-old also set-up Sadio Mane’s opener and scored Liverpool’s second. That night alone proved Klopp’s men were a serious threat in Europe.

Van Dijk later kept Messi quiet at Anfield to help Liverpool overcome a three-goal aggregate deficit to beat Barcelona in the semi-finals.

And, while he was unlucky not to win the UEFA Nations League with the Netherlands in June, Van Dijk was a deserving Ballon d’Or winner.

What next for Van Dijk?

The big Dutchman handled missing out on the Ballon d’Or on Monday very graciously.

And there’s nothing to be ashamed about finishing second-best to Messi, especially after all that the Liverpool man has achieved.

Van Dijk won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year, the Premier League Player of the Season, UEFA Defender of the Season and the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year Award in the past year.

Now, though, the former Southampton man will turn his focus back to his top priority in winning his first-ever Premier League crown.

With last season’s near-miss still fresh on his mind, he’s determined to go one better this time around.

Given Liverpool’s unbelievable start to the new season, however, Van Dijk may not have to wait long.