LFC

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.

Klopp: Alisson could start v. Leicester

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Liverpool could have their No. 1 back in goal as soon as this weekend, according to manager Jurgen Klopp.

Brazilian star Alisson Becker has been out since suffering a calf injury during Liverpool’s Premier League opener on August 9 against Norwich City. Luckily for Liverpool, Adrian was available and he quickly deputized in the starting lineup and helped win the UEFA Super Cup. Now, ahead of Liverpool’s match against former manager Brendan Rodgers and Leicester City, there could be a change in goal.

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“With Alisson it’s still: maybe, maybe not,” Klopp said at a press conference Friday. “Yesterday he trained with the team [for the first time]. But if you know goalie sessions, they are often pretty more intense than the proper football sessions. He looked really good.

“We will see, I have to talk to different people before I make a decision about that.”

On paper, it’s a massive boost for the club to have its best goalkeeper back in full training this week and in contention to start against Leicester City. Alisson is arguably the best goalkeeper in the Premier League, if not the world. In addition, his incredible performances, both in terms of making saves and commanding his box and backline, helped lead Liverpool to an incredible 97-point Premier League season last year.

However, Liverpool hasn’t really missed that much with Adrian in net instead. In Adrian’s ten games, nine starts, Liverpool has lost just one game, a 2-0 defeat to Napoli in Italy. Neither goal was really Adrian’s fault as well, so all in all, he’s been above average at worst and a solid goalkeeper.

Perhaps over the course of an entire season, the difference between Adrian and Alisson would be more noticeable, but for now, Liverpool has taken advantage of Adrian being available and has played very well in front of him.