Virgil van Dijk: Why 'unique' Liverpool star would have been a worthy Ballon d'Or winner over Lionel Messi
It was a timely performance, ahead of making a bit of history. Just at a point in the year when some people in the game were questioning whether Virgil van Dijk was quite as influential as last season, and whether he was easier to get at, he goes and shows his influence in the most direct way.
He scored the two headers that beat Brighton and Hove Albion 2-1, to put Liverpool 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League. It won the game. It might well have won the title, to go with last season’s Champions League.
It is another reason why he would have been a more than worthy winner of the Ballon D’Or, and was a symbolic last performance for his team before the game’s most prestigious individual award was handed out to Lionel Messi for a sixth time. It is an award that is theoretically supposed to reward the player that has had the most influential year though.
So a case can easily made for Van Dijk, even in a world occupied by Messi. You only have to go back to Messi’s one major defeat this year. It was in that Champions League semi-final second leg, that saw Liverpool blow Barcelona away, while also standing their own ground. They kept a clean sheet. That shouldn’t be underestimated, given how crucial one slip would have been in a 4-3 aggregate win.
The story of that match might have been Liverpool’s relentlessly intense attack, but the story of the season, and foundation of the team, is the defence. And that is all built on Van Dijk. It is what this Champions League win was built on, what this title run was built on.
Van Dijk’s effect on the team is that complete. It is not just how he is almost an entire defence in himself, sweeping up virtually everything that comes his way in an elegant Franco Baresi manner, but also winning every individual battle in a more combative Fabio Cannavaro way. It is how much the sense of security he provides also frees up everything else.
It is a large reason as to why Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold can play so far forward, and why the entire attack can press and push with such abandon and intensity. They know they have that safety net in behind. They know they have Van Dijk, a genuinely unique player, and defender. He offers a genuinely crucial psychological release for attackers. It means they don’t have to worry what’s behind, but can go full throttle ahead. His influence and effect is that far-reaching
Only three defenders have ever won the Ballon d’Or, proving merely being in contention against Messi was significant in itself.
It further emphasises that uniqueness. The grand argument in football is that the more hermetically-sealed nature of modern coaching has seen defending pass out of the sport as an art, making it a more attacking game, but also making anyone with those talents all the more important.
Van Dijk proves that, and personifies this. He has genuinely given Liverpool something very different. There really isn’t a player like him, and there so many performances where he seems to actually bring together many of the qualities of many different defensive greats of the past – like Baresi, like Cannavaro, like Paul McGrath – into one complete centre-half.
It is why he was worth so much. It is why players like him are at a premium. It is why he is so unique.
This news item was provided by the The Independent - Premier League website - the original link is: https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/premier-league/virgil-van-dijk-liverpool-ballon-d-or-2019-lionel-messi-results-a9230486.html