With Virgil van Dijk taking UEFA’s player of the year award and Lionel Messi capturing FIFA’s top individual honour, the stage was set for the Ballon d’Or to act the tiebreaker, and early leaks had the France Football overseen award going to Barcelona maestro Messi.
In the end, the leaks were right, with Messi just edging out Van Dijk, and given the numbers the Argentine put up last season it’s hard to argue against the choice—though it’s also hard to imagine what more a defender could have done to win it than Van Dijk.
Still, when the game’s greatest ever player puts up one of his best ever statistical seasons at the age of 32, one can at least understand why voters might lean that way rather than towards Van Dijk’s more intangible and rather less measurable defensive greatness.
Things went better for Alisson Becker, as the Liverpool goalkeeper was the first recipient of the Yachine Trophy as 2019’s top goalkeeper, beating out a shortlist including Marc andre ter-Stegen, Jan Oblak, Hugo Lloris, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Manuel Neur, and Ederson.
He also made the top ten in voting for the Ballon d’Or, finishing seventh overall, just behind Liverpool teammates Mohamed Salah in fifth and Sadio Mané in fourth, with the Reds’ star wingers deservedly being recognised as amongst the game’s very best.
Further down the list, Gini Wijnaldum cracked the top 30 by finishing 26th in voting, Trent Alexander-Arnold came in 19th, and Roberto Firmino finished 17th on an evening that had a lot of Liverpool in it even if Van Dijk fell just short of the game’s greatest ever player.