Reasons Why Van Dijk Should Have Been the Ballon d’Or 2019 Winner
There’s little doubt that the Ballon D’Or is the most prestigious individual award in the world of football. And yet, the 2019 edition added to a long list of years in which many fans and specialists believe that the winner should’ve been someone else.
Lionel Messi received the award and while the Argentinian is arguably the best player in the world, that’s not the point of the Ballon d’Or. It’s designed to honour the best player within a certain year.
There’s a strong case that Virgil Van Dijk was that man in 2019, according to one of the football experts over at GamblingSites.com. Here’s why.
Van Dijk’s Teams Achieved More Than Messi’s
Let’s start with the team achievements that inevitably play a role in the Ballon d’Or. Both players won one meaningful trophy in 2019 with their clubs. Lionel Messi’s Barcelona lifted the Spanish La Liga title, while Virgil Van Dijk’s Liverpool won the UEFA Champions League.
The former trophy is certainly more prestigious and it was much harder to win in this particular year. No disrespect to Barcelona’s title, but Real Madrid was abysmal throughout the season and Atletico Madrid was the only opponent of the club.
Even then, Diego Simeone’s men only earned 76 points and Barcelona was comfortably ahead for most of the year. It still counts, but this one of the easiest titles of the club in recent years.
Liverpool’s Champions League triumph was exactly the opposite. The Reds had to face Bayern Munich, Porto, Barcelona, and Tottenham in the knockouts of the competition. It’s one of the most impressive runs you would ever see.
On top of that, Liverpool’s performance in the English Premier League was extraordinary. The club achieved the third-best points tally in the history of the tournament and only the surreal Manchester City finished ahead of the Reds.
Finally, there are the national teams. Lionel Messi and his Argentina reached the last 4 of the Copa America which is a decent achievement, but hardly a spectacular one. They had the quality to go all the way, so the third position was not exactly a success.
Van Dijk, on the other hand, provided a huge boost for a Dutch side that was struggling heavily in the past several years. The country missed two big tournaments in a row recently. The appointment of the Liverpool defender as the captain changed the mentality of the team.
The Netherlands qualified for EURO 2020 and reached the final of the 2019 UEFA Nations League. The results are not that staggering but the overall improvement compared to previous years certainly counts.
Van Dijk’s Impact Was More Meaningful
It’s always hard to measure the impact of two players that are in a different position on the pitch. Lionel Messi is a forward and you can clearly see he was pivotal for Barcelona by scoring a ton of goals and providing plenty of assists.
At the same time, there aren’t many statistics that measure the influence of central defenders. And yet, few would argue against the fact that Virgil Van Dijk was Liverpool’s best player throughout the season.
The Dutchman was the heart and soul of the club’s defense which is what made the difference. It’s no coincidence that Liverpool became competitive in both Europe and England after Van Dijk’s arrival.
Jurgen Klopp had a strong attacking line before that but that wasn’t enough to fight with the likes of Manchester City, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich.
The Dutch center back was the missing piece that made it possible in the past two seasons. And while the Reds went painfully close to trophies without winning any in 2017-18, the Champions League of the next Liverpool campaign legitimized the team as one of Europe’s best.
At the same time, Lionel Messi was the main driving force behind Barcelona’s La Liga title and no one can deny that. However, the lack of competition and the club’s failure in the other tournaments suggests that the Argentinian magician didn’t manage to lift his teammates to the highest level possible.
Giving Lionel Messi the Ballon D’Or is never a huge mistake, as he has been among the best players in the world in every single season of the past decade or so. And yet, it’s a shame that an exceptional athlete and leader as Virgil Van Dijk didn’t receive the highest recognition for his efforts in 2019.
At least the Dutchman won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and the UEFA Men’s Player award. The defender is at the peak of his career right now, so he will surely contend for the Ballon d’Or again in the future.