Liverpool legend, Jamie Carragher believes that Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi is still the favourite to lift the coveted Ballon d'Or for the sixth time, despite the incredible form of Virgil van Dijk.
The Liverpool defender, who was named the PFA Players' Player of the Year, played a key role in his team's sixth Champions League trophy after a 2-1 victory over Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur. Unfortunately for the centre-back, he was unable to add another winners' medal to his collection at the weekend, as the Dutch lost 1-0 to Portugal in the Nations League final.
The ex-Liverpool man believes that Lionel Messi is still in pole position to land the Ballon d'Or, owing to his successful season with Barcelona, and that the failure to secure the Nations League could hold Van Dijk back.
When speaking on Sky Sports, Carragher stated: "I saw he’s gone ahead of Messi in the betting, I’d be thinking Messi, to be honest - very rarely you see a centre-back get that.
“That’s why he’ll be disappointed today [missing out on Nations League]. Obviously, it’s not a World Cup or a Euros but it’s just that nice little trophy for his country. But I think when you win something big, that’s when you really cement yourself at that level and I think he is the best in the world in that position. He’s proven himself. But, Ballon d’Or, I think Messi.”
With the Ballon d'Or' rarely being won by a defender, and Messi's recent domination of the award, it would be a huge achievement if Van Dijk won the award. The last time the trophy was won by a defender was by Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 following his World Cup success with Italy and winning the Serie A title with Juventus.
The Italian is one of only two defenders to win the award, with German legend Franz Beckenbauer winning it in 1972 and 1976.
Source : 90min