​​Barcelona icon Lionel Messi has heaped praise on ​Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk, pinpointing his strengths on the pitch which make him one of the most difficult players to go up against.

Messi pipped the Dutchman to win the ​FIFA Men's Best Player of the Year award, though it was Van Dijk who was named as the ​UEFA Player of the Year. Not surprisingly, both the stars go head-to-head in the race to win the Ballon d'Or later this year.

Van Dijk was key to Liverpool winning the ​Champions League last season and has played every minute this season as the Reds have won all eight of their league games so far.

Messi, who was at the receiving end of the Dutchman's qualities last season, is a huge fan of the centre-back and explained why.

"He is a defender who knows how to judge his timing and wait for the right moment to challenge or jockey [the attacker]. He is very fast and big, but he has a lot of agility for his height. He is fast because of its great stride, and he is impressive both in defence and attack because he scores lots of goals," Messi said to ​Marca.

The 32-year-old, who missed the start of the season due to injury, recently netted his first goal of the campaign and will look to lead his club to further honours this season.