Klopp talks up Van Dijk for top prize

Liverpool

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp believes Virgil van Dijk's form over the last year would make him a worthy Ballon d'Or winner.

Van Dijk has excelled since moving to Anfield from Southampton in January 2018 for a then world-record fee for a defender, tightening up the back-line and improving the side substantially.

The Dutchman has played in two Champions League finals since his transfer and after finishing second last term in the Premier League, is primed to help them top the standings for the first time since 1990.

Liverpool have a heavy presence in the running for Ballon d’Or, with seven players making the long list. Alisson, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Roberto Firmino and Georginio Wijnaldum are also candidates for the gong.

Van Dijk is the favourite of those though and Klopp sees no reason why he would not deserve the award.

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The 28-year-old was crowned UEFA Men’s Player of the Year, PFA Players’ Player of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season last term and is widely seen has the best centre-back in the world.

This year’s ceremony takes place next Monday at Paris’ Théâtre du Châtelet, two days before the first Merseyside derby of the year.

Italy’s World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro was the last defender to win the award but the boss feels it is time for a change.

Klopp says that while, in his opinion at least, Lionel Messi is the best player in the world, it is his Dutch defensive maestro who has been the leading footballer on the planet over the last 12 months.

“If you give the Ballon d’Or to the best player of this generation then you should give it always to Lionel Messi. That’s how it is,” Klopp said. “But if you give it to the best player of last season, then it was Virgil van Dijk. I don’t know exactly how it will work but that is how I see it.

“The best player of all? That’s Lionel. Best player of last season? That’s Virgil. We will see.”

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