Andy Hunter on 3 December 2019
Jürgen Klopp claims Virgil van Dijk deserved to win the Ballon d’Or ahead of Lionel Messi for his outstanding contribution to Liverpool’s Champions League-winning season but should now focus on going one better next year.
The defender finished second in the annual poll on Monday when Messi collected the prize for the sixth time, beating Van Dijk by seven votes. The manager admits Messi is the finest player he has seen but after a campaign in which Van Dijk excelled in Liverpool’s defence, including the Champions League semi-final comeback against Barcelona, he claimed the Netherlands captain merited the honour.
The Liverpool manager said: “Things like this are decisions made by journalists. I see it slightly different and a lot of people see it slightly different but that’s absolutely no problem. Lionel Messi, I’ve said probably 500,000 times in my life already, is probably the best player I saw in my lifetime. Very early in my life I saw Franz Beckenbauer and Diego Maradona but I’ve seen Lionel Messi more.
I don’t know how the others would have played nowadays – probably exceptional – but Lionel Messi is here now and he has won it six times and Cristiano [Ronaldo] five times but last season I cannot remember a more impressive season from a defender ever. Honestly. So it would have been right if Virg won it.
“I heard it was pretty close. As a group of players we won the Champions League, played an outstanding season and got 97 points and people see that as well because we cannot do that without performing players so I am really happy for them. It is nice but it is last season, so I think pretty much now all the awards are done and the boys can go for new ones.”
Klopp, meanwhile, admitted Liverpool are ready to move in the January transfer market if the right player becomes available. The Premier League leaders, who are among the admirers of Jadon Sancho at Borussia Dortmund, have usually been quiet in January under Klopp but the manager believes that strategy could change because of the early summer deadline in England.
He explained: “For us it is always the same. We don’t speak about it but we are pretty much always ready to do something if it will help us. If not, then not. We will see. I think the summer window is more difficult because of the different moments when it closes in Europe. That makes it really difficult. We will see how that will be in the future. The summer window only hurts the English clubs, it doesn’t help them. We can only buy until a specific moment, other clubs can buy into the season.”