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‘Ronaldo hasn’t been overly great’ – Van Dijk deserves Ballon d’Or, says ex-Liverpool star

6:18 AM EDT 9/17/19
Van Dijk Messi Ronaldo split
The Dutch defender, who has been a stunning success at Anfield, is being backed by Paul Ince to land the Golden Ball ahead of Lionel Messi and Co

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk deserves to win the Ballon d’Or over the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, says Paul Ince, with a superstar at Juventus considered to have not been “overly great”.

The usual suspects are expected to be among the contenders for the 2019 Golden Ball, with Ronaldo and Messi having been joined on the three-man shortlist for the FIFA Best Award by Van Dijk, with the Reds centre-half having already beaten them to the UEFA Player of the Year prize.

The Netherlands international has the support of many when it comes to being recognised as the finest player on the planet, with Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric having already broken the stranglehold that Messi and Ronaldo enjoyed on that standing.

Ince is among those who would like to see another star man acknowledged, with the former Liverpool midfielder also questioning why Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling is not in the frame.

He told Paddy Power: “The thing is about the Ballon d’Or is that we always go with the same people. It’s either Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo winning it, isn’t it really?

“But there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be a defender. Virgil van Dijk has been exceptional this year, but I also thought Raheem Sterling should be up for it.

“It’s a tough one because Man City still won three trophies, while Liverpool only got one in the Champions League, and yet Sterling’s not even mentioned as a potential winner.

“That baffles me. It really, really does.

“It would make a nice change for Virgil van Dijk to win the award rather than just being Messi and Ronaldo all the time. I don’t believe Ronaldo’s been overly great anyway.

“But, the great players are the ones who score goals and that’s why people always say Messi or Ronaldo.

“I know Luka Modric won it last year, but I think what Van Dijk’s done with Liverpool has been phenomenal.

“The way he took them forward as a team and compete with City like they are, so I’d give it to him.”

Van Dijk has played down the importance of landing individual awards, as he looks to focus on the pursuit of collective goals, but admits that claiming the Ballon d’Or would be a "dream come true".

No defender has won that prize since Italy’s World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.