Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk would be deserving Ballon d’Or winner says Mario Melchiot

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This article is part of Football FanCast’s Pundit View series, which provides opinion and analysis on recent quotes from journalists, pundits, players and managers…

After an impressive year which involved trophy wins and captaining his national team, Mario Melchiot believes it could be the right time for Virgil van Dijk to win the top prize in world football.

What did he say?

The last defender to win the Ballon d’Or was Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 but there has arguably never been more clamour for a defender to win it since than van Dijk.

The 28-year-old would be more than deserving, too, having featured 50 times for a Liverpool side which won the Champions League and lost just once in the Premier League, achieving the third-highest points total in the league’s history in the process.

The former Dutch international has been impressed with van Dijk’s journey, and recognised the talent he had early on when the Liverpool man was playing for Groningen in his native Netherlands.

Speaking to Goal, Melchiot said: “He can take a striker out of the game and he has a coach that anyone would want to play for. The only thing is, people now see him as a special player. A small mistake will seem like a big mistake, but I don’t think he will struggle with that.

“He is also Holland’s captain. He’s a great player, he brought calmness to Liverpool even in the Champions League final. He has proven himself as one of the best, he should definitely be amongst the top picks for the Ballon d’Or. This could be his moment.”

The defender faces significant competition from the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but having picked up the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year he could be in line to pip the world’s best to another award.

Deserving winner

Messi and Ronaldo’s ten-year dominance was broken last year when Luka Modric picked up the prestigious award, and it could be argued that neither have improved remarkably since in order to reclaim the top spot – not in comparison to van Dijk.

Between the time of voting in 2017 and 2018 Ronaldo had scored 43 goals, with Messi on 46, and neither were deemed good enough to win. Since then, the Juventus man has scored 21, whilst the Argentine is on 37 goals without playing a game this season.

From those stats, Ronaldo would have to improve significantly to win, making the Barcelona man the only player who could feasibly threaten van Dijk, and his teammate Gerard Pique believes it could be a two-horse race between the pair.

Cannavaro’s 2006 World Cup win was rewarded by winning the Ballon d’Or, and in a non-World Cup year van Dijk has done the next best thing by helping his side to the Champions League, as well as guiding his national team to the UEFA Nations League final, and therefore is in with a great shout of replicating the Italian’s feat.

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