Barcelona forward Lionel Messi has been full of praise for Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk, after the two went head to head in the Champions League last season.
He said: “He is a defender who knows how to judge his timing and wait for the right moment to challenge or jockey. He is very fast and big, but he has a lot of agility for his height.
“He is fast because of his great stride, and he is impressive both in defence and attack because he scores lots of goals.”
TBR’s View – Messi likely ahead of van Dijk in Ballon d’Or reckoning
The fact that van Dijk was one of the most impressive performers in a side which won the Champions League in a year where there was no international tournament puts him rightly in contention to win the Ballon d’Or.
But Messi has set such ridiculous goalscoring standards in recent years that even a standard season for him – and one without lifting the Champions League – puts him right in the mix.
And given that these awards tend to go to forward players, that looks likely to give Messi the edge in the fight for the biggest individual honour of 2019.