Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk believes that Lionel Messi remains a worthier candidate for the 2019 Ballon d'Or gong - while admitting he would not turn down the award following his Champions League heroics.
The Netherlands defender has been a rock in the heart of the Liverpool side since signing in January 2018, transforming a notoriously leaky backline into the Premier League's most formidable unit.
That form has also carried over into Europe, where Liverpool kept six clean sheets on the way to their 2-0 victory over Tottenham in Saturday's Champions League final.
Already named the PFA Player of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season in England this season, Van Dijk now has a real chance to become the first defender to pick up the Ballon d'Or since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.
But despite getting the better of Messi and Barcelona in the semi-final stage prior to glory in the Wanda Metropolitano, the player believes the Argentine remains a better candidate for the individual crown.
"I think Messi is the best player in the world. He should win the Ballon d'Or," he told reporters in Madrid following the final whistle.
"So I'm not thinking of that. But if I win, I'll take it. Messi should win it though. He is the best in the world, whether he's in the final or not."
Van Dijk, who entered the press conference with his Champions League winners medal hanging from his neck and a bottle of beer in hand, added that he hoped this title would push Liverpool on to even better things next season - specifically, toppling Manchester City at the Premier League summit.
"We should be hungry. This season finished today with the Champions League," he said.
"In July everyone starts at zero and we go again. We saw this season that we still have to build on it.
"We need to challenge Manchester City again because I don’t think they’re going anywhere. We are ambitious and we want these type of nights a couple of times a year."
Saturday's triumph means that Liverpool now have six European Cup and Champions League crowns, placing them third in the all-time ranking of winners.