Rivaldo has no doubts that Lionel Messi deservedly beat Virgil van Dijk and Cristiano Ronaldo to the FIFA Best Men’s Player award.
Messi came out on top in Monday night’s ceremony ahead of Van Dijk and Ronaldo in Milan to scoop his first FIFA The Best prize to add to his five Ballon d’Ors and his one defunct World Player of the Year.
For some, though, the outcome was a surprise considering that Van Dijk arrived in Italy as the strong favourite.
The Dutch centre-back’s role in Liverpool’s Champions League triumph won him UEFA’s Player of the Year last month. Two-time winner Ronaldo, on the other hand, won a domestic double in his first season at Juventus.
The 34-year-old later led Portugal to UEFA Nations League glory in the summer. Whereas Messi couldn’t make an impact as Argentina struggled to a third-place Copa America finish.
But Rivaldo has no doubts that Messi deserved the big prize in Milan.
“Despite being a tight voting, I believe Messi deserved this award for everything he has done last season,” he told Betfair.
“Yep, he only won La Liga, but he scored more than 50 goals and assisted 20, playing almost 60 matches of high demand.
“Messi put in some fine individual performances but Van Dijk and Ronaldo also had strong seasons.
“Sometimes it could be debatable what to value more: the team titles or the individual performances.
“For me, though, this is an individual award. So, Messi was the best in 2019 even though his teams didn’t win as many titles as they wished.”
Attention will now turn to the outcome of the 2019 Ballon d’Or race on December 2. France Football plan to announce the candidates before the end of this month.
Despite losing out to Messi for the FIFA award, Van Dijk remains the bookies favourite for the Ballon d’Or.
Messi is next up on the list followed by Allison Becker, Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah.