Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk has been tipped as the favourite to win the Ballon d’Or at the end of this year.
Van Dijk capped off a very successful 2018-19 season on both the club and domestic stage by winning the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool and finishing as runners up in the UEFA Nations League with the Netherlands.
The Liverpool centre-back emerged as the trophy favourite this week after the Netherlands’ Nations League Final loss on Sunday. News of Van Dijk topping the favourites’ list did not sit well with former Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese player led his team to UEFA Nations League glory against Van Dijk’s side and refuses to believe he is currently third-favourite to win the trophy.
Virgil van Dijk: Is Messi and Ronaldo domiance done?
If Van Dijk does ultimately win the Ballon d’Or trophy, he would be the first defender to win it since Real Madrid’s Fabio Cannavaro took home the trophy in 2006.
In 2018, Real Madrid’s Luka Modric won the trophy after helping his club to the Champions League title. He later was a part of Croatia’s World Cup runners up team.
His win shocked many football fans and pundits as Ronaldo’s and Lionel Messi’s 10-year dominance of the trophy was ended.
Van Dijk’s stats back up his excellent play this past year, but unlike Messi and Ronaldo, he doesn’t have the excessive goal numbers to impress voters.
Virgil van Dijk: More than goals
The Dutchman’s play is far more than goals and it showed in the number of clean sheets Liverpool kept in both the Premier League and Champions League.
Liverpool kept 21 clean sheets in the Premier League and six in the Champions League.
Van Dijk added eight goals in all competitions along with four assists. He averaged 4.8 aerial wins in the Premier League along with one tackle and 1.1 interceptions.
Remarkably, Van Dijk averaged just 0.3 fouls per Premier League match while collecting a mere one yellow card in the competition.
Van Dijk could be the first Liverpool player to win the Ballon d’Or since striker Michael Owen did it in 2001. Other than Ronaldo’s 2008 trophy win, it is a piece of silverware that has not gone to Premier League players often.