‘We need to respect greatness’: Virgil van Dijk heaps praise on ‘unnatural’ Lionel Messi as Liverpool star remains dignified in defeat after missing out on the Ballon d’Or
- Virgil van Dijk came second behind Lionel Messi at the 2019 Ballon d’Or awards
- The Dutchman had been tipped to beat the Barcelona superstar to the honour
- Van Dijk was gracious in defeat and heaped praise upon Messi’s greatness
- Messi has now won the award six times, more than any other player in history
Virgil van Dijk was full of praise for the ‘unnatural’ Lionel Messi after narrowly losing out on the biggest individual prize in world football.
The Liverpool and Holland defender placed second in the Ballon d’Or stakes, as Messi picked up the prestigious honour for a record sixth time.
Nobody in football history has won the accolade more than Messi, and Van Dijk admitted the ‘greatness’ of the Barcelona superstar must be respected.
Virgil van Dijk attended the Ballon d’Or ceremony in Paris with his wife Rike Nooitgedagt
Lionel Messi scooped the main honour, winning the Ballon d’Or for a historic sixth time
Speaking in front of a star-studded crowd inside the iconic Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, Van Dijk admitted he never believed he would be in the running for such a huge solo prize.
‘To be absolutely honest I never thought that I would be up for a Ballon d’Or until I was actually nominated,’ said the Dutchman.
‘It says a lot about how my career has been, it’s never been easy. My career has been different than let’s say the winner here, I came late but I never gave up on my dream so I had to work very hard for every step of the way.’
Van Dijk and Messi came up against each other last season as Liverpool and Barcelona met
Van Dijk then turned his attention to Messi, heaping praise on the Argentine and causing him to break out into a sheepish smile on stage.
‘Unfortunately there are a couple of players like him (Messi) who are unnatural, I think they are fantastic.
‘Look, six times the Ballon d’Or, we need to respect greatness as well. I was close but there was just someone a little bit better.
‘I’m very proud of what I achieved last year with Liverpool and with Holland and hopefully we can do that again this year, but you know it’s going to be tough as long as these guys are around.
‘My career has been different than let’s say the winner here,’ Van Dijk added.
Van Dijk has been a revelation since joining Liverpool and helped win the Champions League
‘I came late but I never gave up on my dream so I had to work very hard for every step of the way.
‘Where I am right now is something I am very proud of and to be here makes me very proud and makes me want to work even harder to hopefully be here next year again.’
Messi and Van Dijk took first and second place respectively at the ceremony, while Cristiano Ronaldo came in third.
Thew Juventus superstar opted not to attend the event, and also missed out to Messi and Van Dijk earlier in the year at FIFA’s The Best awards.
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