Will a defender ever win the Ballon d’Or again?
Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk has missed out on winning the Ballon d'Or which underlines just how difficult it is for a defender to be named the world's best.
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi picked up the accolade for a record sixth time at a ceremony in Paris on Monday night, with van Dijk having to be content with second place, although the centre-back did finish ahead of Juventus and Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo.
It first must be pointed out that Argentina international Messi did enjoy another standout year, as he scored 54 goals for club and country during the 2018-19 season and it could be argued he was overdue another success after his last Ballon d’Or win came in 2015.
Messi’s goals also helped Barca to another La Liga title triumph during 2019, but was that really enough to justify him pipping van Dijk to being named the world’s best player?
Van Dijk has been the glue that has not only held Liverpool’s defence together since his arrival in January 2018, but he has also revitalised what was considered a weak point in Jurgen Klopp’s team.
The Dutch international was an ever-present as Liverpool came within a whisker of winning a first Premier League title during 2018-19 – the Reds were ultimately pipped to the post in dramatic circumstances by Manchester City despite finishing the campaign with a staggering 97 points.
Liverpool also boasted the best defence in the English top flight last season, while they went on to claim a sixth European title by beating Tottenham in the Champions League final in May, with van Dijk scoring important goals against Porto and Bayern Munich en route to that success.
The 28-year-old also captained the Netherlands to the final of the inaugural UEFA Nations League during the summer before helping them qualify for their first major tournament since the 2014 World Cup, although that still wasn’t enough to see him land the Ballon d’Or.
It begs the question, what does a defender have to do to be crowned the world’s best?
The last centre-back to win the trophy was Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro in 2006, with German duo Lothar Matthaus and Franz Beckenbauer being the only other defensive players to receive the honour.
Indeed, van Dijk is the first defender in 13 years to even make it into the top-three of the standings.
We all, of course, love to see creative players shine and excitement in the final third is what people pay good money to see, but it seems remiss to overlook defenders when it comes to the top awards.
Van Dijk probably should have won the Ballon d’Or this year and we are now left wondering how long it will be before another defender is in the running to be crowned the world’s best.