2019 ballon d’or

Van Dijk: ‘Very proud’ to be in running for Ballon d’Or

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A centerback hasn’t won the Ballon d’Or – or FIFA’s Best Male Player award – since 2006, when Fabio Cannavarro earned the prize off the back of a tremendous summer leading Italy to the 2006 World Cup title.

[READ: Leo Messi wins 6th Ballon d’Or]

In the end, Virgil Van Dijk came this close to breaking the duopoly held by strikers and playmaking midfielders. The Liverpool centerback finished second in the voting, and he was able to sit right next to Lionel Messi before the Argentine star was announced as the award winner.

“You need to respect greatness. I was close, but there was just someone a little bit better,” van Dijk told Liverpool’s website after the event in Paris on Monday. “I’m very proud of what I achieved last year, with Liverpool and Holland. Hopefully we can do it again this year. I never thought I would be up for a Ballon d’Or until I was actually nominated. It says a lot about how my career has been, it has never been easy. I came late but I never gave up on my dreams. I had to work very hard every step of the way.

“Where I am right now is something I’m very proud of. To be here makes me very proud and makes me want to work even harder and hopefully be here next year again.”

Van Dijk had an outstanding season with Liverpool in 2018-2019, cementing himself as the pre-eminent centerback in the world and leading the Reds to a UEFA Champions League title. At the same time, van Dijk’s strong defensive work allowed Liverpool to come within one point of Manchester City for the Premier League title, nearly ending a three-decade drought for Liverpool.

Van Dijk hasn’t dropped any levels into this season. Thanks to his strong defensive play, Liverpool has a double-digit lead in the Premier League standings over Man City, and could run away with the title if the Reds continue to pick up points. Van Dijk finishing second shows how valuable he is even abroad, and where would Liverpool be without him? Certainly not leading the league right now.

The 28-year-old centerback has sort of blossomed late, but he’s used every move as a stepping stone to a moment like this. From making his debut at 20-years old with Gronigen in the Netherlands to a move to Celtic and then Southampton, van Dijk has improved at every stage to become one of the best players in the world.

How the world reacted to Messi’s 6th Ballon d’Or

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It wasn’t a massive shock, especially with Cristiano Ronaldo not in attendance, but Lionel Messi picked up his sixth Ballon d’Or award from France Football on Monday evening.

Even if not a surprise, it’s still incredibly impressive. It’s Messi’s first Ballon d’Or since 2015 and at age 32, he’s looking as strong, quick, and incredible as ever. For a player on the wrong side of 30 to take his game back to a superstar level is incredible, and it had folks thinking nostalgic.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Here’s a sample of some of the reaction to Messi’s win on social media:

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😍 Felicidades @leomessi 🌟

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Messi wins 6th Ballon d’Or

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Lionel Messi is back on top.

For the sixth time, the hosts at France Football’s end-of-year awards ceremonies read out Messi’s name as the winner of the Ballon d’Or. The 2019 award is Messi’s first since 2015. Since the the award was won by Cristiano Ronaldo twice and Luka Modric last year after guiding Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final.

So far this season, Messi has scored 14 goals to go with eight assists for Barcelona in all competitions. Last season however, Messi returned to his dominance, leading La Liga with 36 goals and scoring a total of 48 between the league and the UEFA Champions League. He also had 16 assists between both leagues.

Also honored on Monday evening was the winners of the Best Young Player and the Best Goalkeeper, a new award.

The goalkeeping award, named after the Soviet great Lev Yashin, went to Liverpool’s Alisson Becker. The Brazilian goalkeeper backstopped Liverpool in his first season in England to second place in the Premier League and the 2019 UEFA Champions League title. He’s recorded 21 clean sheets in 45 Premier League appearances so far.

Matthijs de Ligt, the former Ajax star who led his team to back to back Champions League semifinals, was named the Best Young Player by France Football. Now with Juventus, de Ligt is part of a superstar generation of young Dutch players who are looking to take their nation far at the 2020 Euros and beyond. De Ligt, at just 20-years old, still has many of his best years ahead of him.

The top ten in the final 2019 Ballon d’Or is as follows:

10. Riyad Mahrez, Man City

9. Bernardo Silva, Man City

8. Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich

7. Alisson Becker, Liverpool

6. Kylian Mbappe, PSG

5. Mohamed Salah, Liverpool

4. Sadie Mane, Liverpool

3. Cristiano Ronaldo, Juventus

2. Virgil Van Dijk, Liverpool

1. Lionel Messi, Barcelona