Lennon believes Van Dijk deserved Best FIFA Men's Player award over Messi

Comments()
Getty
The Celtic boss was in charge of the club when the Dutch star was there and believes he was the outstanding player in Europe last season

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has said he was "disappointed" to see Virgil van Dijk lose out to Lionel Messi for the Best FIFA Men's Player award. 

The Liverpool defender joined Barcelona star Messi and Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo as the final three nominees for the prize, which was announced on Monday. 

Many expected Van Dijk to win the award but instead Messi took home the prize after scoring 51 goals in 50 appearances for Barcelona last term, leading the Catalans to the La Liga title. 

Article continues below

Van Dijk had a stellar season for the Reds, leading the club to the Champions League title and to within a point of a Premier League crown. 

Lennon managed Van Dijk during his first stint in charge of Celtic, with the 48-year-old having returned as Hoops manager last season after Brendan Rodgers left to take over Leicester. 

Van Dijk joined Celtic in 2013 from Groningen before departing Scotland in 2015 when he signed with Southampton.

Lennon has said he believes that though Messi had yet another outstanding season, his former charge deserved to win the prize.

"Messi is Messi and if you look at the numbers from Messi we probably take it for granted what he does because he just does it so well on a regular basis," Lennon said, "but I thought Virgil was the outstanding player in domestic and European football this year or the previous year or whatever way the calendar turns out, and I thought he deserved to win so I'm disappointed for him."

Had Van Dijk won the award he would have been the first defender to be named the top player in the world since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.

Messi and Ronaldo have dominated the award since Cannavaro's win, with Kaka in 2007 and Luka Modric in 2018 the only players to win other than the superstar pair. 

When asked if he believed it was harder for a defender to win the award, Lennon said: "Probably. We're in an era of Messi and Ronaldo and with those two, we're lucky to have them our generation. 

"We should enjoy them, they've done remarkable things and remarkable is probably an understatement when it comes to those two, but I felt as a centre-half [Van Dijk is] just outstanding in every aspect of his game."

Close