With just a few days left before the Ballon d’Or gala reveals who the winner of this year’s best player crown will be, there are only but a few candidates who pose a genuine threat.
Lionel Messi is the absolute favourite to win his sixth Ballon d’Or as the Argentine has already been adjudged as FIFA's The Best Men’s Player for this year. However, his nearest rival in this year’s competition is Virgil van Dijk, who was declared UEFA's Player of the Year.
The Dutchman might just win the Ballon d'Or – and here are three reasons why…
3. Leading Role in Champions League Glory
As mentioned countless times before in various places, the Champions League is perhaps the most important trophy for a player to be judged as the Ballon d’Or winner.
The last time a non-Champions League-winner was awarded the Ballon d’Or was way back in 2013 when Franck Ribery was snubbed in favour of Cristiano Ronaldo.
This year, Van Dijk has the advantage of winning the Champions League and not only that, he was a leading figure for Liverpool as his presence at the back formed the foundation for the team to achieve European glory.
He also led the Netherlands to the UEFA Nations League finals, where they lost out to Portugal.
2. About Time a Defender Wins
In the last 10 years, only once has the Ballon d’Or been given to a player who wasn’t a forward. Before the domination of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi began, Kaka was the last winner and even he was more of an attacker than a midfielder.
That makes Luka Modric an exception when he won the Ballon d’Or last year. Meanwhile, only one defender has won the Ballon d’Or in this millennium and that was Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.
The Ballon d’Or’s constant snubbing of defenders is not a good sign since it is almost demeaning towards the players at the back. But all that could change if Van Dijk is awarded the honour this year.
1. Individual Brilliance
All these years, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s individual brilliance put them above the rest. Their impact and influence were head and shoulders ahead of the rest, which is why one couldn’t have made a case for a defender winning.
With Van Dijk, there is now a unique chance to bestow the award to a defender whose influence can’t be overstated. Liverpool were one of the worst among top outfits in terms of defending but the arrival of the Dutchman has completely changed that.
Not only is he a great defender, but he also makes the other players in the backline better and his individual impact is something that has made him somewhat of a cult figure among football fans.
While Lionel Messi is the favourite to win the Ballon d'Or, here are three reasons why Virgil van Dijk is his closest challenger