​Former ​Arsenal star, Paul Merson has expressed his surprise at Lionel Messi beating Virgil van Dijk to scoop the FIFA Best Men's Player of the Year award, calling the decision as an "absolute joke".

Van Dijk was the favourite to win the award following his performances for ​Liverpool last season, where he helped them win the UEFA Champions League while also coming within a whisker of pipping ​Manchester City to the Premier League title.

However, Messi who scored 51 goals in 50 games last campaign was awarded the award, which did not go down too well with the football pundit.

"No. No. It’s a joke. Sorry, it’s a joke. He’s just done what he’s done every season. He hasn’t taken them to another level. He didn’t take them to win the Champions League. That’s what Barcelona are all about," he said to ​Metro.

"How many does he get against Alaves? You win it because you’ve done something special. Van Dijk has done something special. They’ve won the Champions League, Liverpool. That’s what Barcelona wanted to win. If you asked Barcelona what do you want to win the league or the Champions League? They’d’ve gone the Champions League. 

"For me it’s an absolute joke, that. An absolute joke."

It will be interesting to see whether this win will tip the scales in Lionel Messi's favour when it comes to the Ballon d'Or awards later in the year.