The best player in the world is usually Lionel Messi. When it isn’t, it’s Ronaldo. This season, though, with Ronaldo’s Juventus falling well short in the Champions League and Messi and Barcelona dispatched by Liverpool, there’s a new contender.
Virgil van Dijk, the Premier League’s player of the season. The man who was imperious as the Reds lifted their sixth Champions League trophy. A player who has been in dominant form for both club and country over the past 12 months.
“I think Messi is the best player in the world,” was Van Dijk’s response when asked if he’s thinking of himself as a contender—or maybe even a favourite—after tonight. “He should win the Ballon D’Or, so I’m not thinking of that.”
He’s probably mostly thinking about having just won the Champions League to cap an incredible season, both personally and as part of a team. He’s also a player who, for all his qualities on the pitch, has never been much for bragging.
The reality, though, is that he deserves to be in that conversation based on the past 12 months. In fact, he might deserve to be leading it. And add in a successful summer with the Netherlands in the Nations League, and he just might.
He might not be favoured outright—Messi’s absolutely dominant season in La Liga this past year was one for the ages, and if he does well at this summer’s Copa America he’s likely a lock for it—but he would definitely have a chance.
“If I win, I’ll take it,” Van Dijk added. “But for me they should give it to Messi every year because he is the best without doubt, it doesn’t matter whether he’s in the final or not.”