Legendary former Dutch footballer Ruud Gullit couldn’t hide his disappointment for countryman Virgil van Dijk after the Netherland’s captain was pipped to the prestigious Ballon d’Or accolade by Lionel Messi.
Despite registering the UEFA and PFA Player of the Year for 2019, Van Dijk couldn’t make it a clean sweep of individual awards after inspiring club side Liverpool to Champions League glory and his international team to the inaugural Nations League final.
Messi, 32, made it six Ballon d’Or triumphs following the award ceremony in Paris. The Barcelona icon scored a staggering 51 goals in 50 appearances in all competitions which included another La Liga championship.
However, the Argentine did miss out on a fifth Champions League following the Catalonia outfit’s Anfield collapse at in the semi-finals of the competition which saw Liverpool revive a three-goal deficit to progress to the final in Madrid back in 2019.
Despite Van Dijk having a gargantuan impact on Liverpool claiming a sixth European Cup, Gullit fears the 28-year-old will never get a better chance to sit on top of the world, with players in his position set to consistently miss out to the continent’s elite forwards.
“The message of the Ballon d’Or was, he’s never going to win it again,” Gullit told JOE of his fellow countryman.
Pressed on whether he feels Van Dijk should have won, the former AC Milan and Chelsea hero said: “Yeah, I think he should.
“But, you know, you can’t say Messi didn’t deserve it either. But if there was a possibility to make a stand for a defender, it was this year.”
“[Arrigo] Sacchi already said that Van Dijk couldn’t win it because, otherwise, [Franco] Baresi should have won it already,” Gullit added on a legendary figure he once played alongside at San Siro.
“If Baresi didn’t win it, why should he win it? That’s what he said. He didn’t say he didn’t deserve it, but he said they’re never going to give it to a defender. That’s what he said, and that’s a pity.
“That’s why I say, it almost looks like they say ‘Look, you’re never going to be a contender anymore for the Ballon d’Or’.”
What RTK has to say
Gullit is spot on. Sadly for Van Dijk, defenders are not held in the same lucrative bracket as some of Europ’s most blessed forwards.
Fabio Cannavaro is the latest figure to disrupt the trend and it took the former Italy national team captain to win the 2006 World Cup to come out as the globe’s leading star 14 years ago.
Whilst Van Dijk became the most expensive defender in world football following his £75m [BBC Sport] move from Southampton in 2018, it is small change when compared to the outrageous fee Paris Saint Germain paid for Brazilian forward Neymar in a deal from Barcelona which was a gargantuan £200m [BBC Sport].
Despite missing out on the individual front, collectively Van Dijk and his Reds teammates are closing in on Premier League immortality with Liverpool just five victories away from ending the club’s 30-year wait for a league title.