Virgil van Dijk is now the favourite among bookmakers to win 2019 Ballon d'Or

Netherlands v England - UEFA Nations League Semi-Final

Virgil van Dijk is on the verge of winning two major honours in the space of eight days.

Fresh off the back of Champions League success with Liverpool, the Dutchman is now just 90 minutes away from winning the Nations League with his country. 

The Netherlands beat England 3-1 after extra time in the semi-final on Thursday night, courtesy of some horrorshow defending from both John Stones and Ross Barkley. 

There were no such errors at the other end, at least not from Van Dijk. 

His centre-back partner Matthijs de Ligt may have endured a difficult first-half and gave away Marcus Rashford's penalty, but the Reds centre-back looked typically comfortable. 

It's been yet another remarkable week for the 27-year-old. 

With every performance, the debate about whether he can be considered the best defender in the world is diminishing. 

There's just one more obstacle though - can van Dijk be considered a serious contender for the Ballon d'Or?

Can anyone other than Lionel Messi, after his quite sublime, frankly alien displays in the Champions League, be considered?

Well, yes - at least according to several bookmakers, who now have van Dijk as the favourite for the 2019 accolade, ahead of the Argentine. 

Cristiano Ronaldo, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane also find themselves in his towering shadow. 

It wasn't so long ago that Philipp Lahm lamented the award, arguing that it had simply boiled down to a goalscoring competition for strikers. 

Messi and Ronaldo's duopoly certainly ratified that view, until it was finally smashed by Luka Modric in 2018. 

That may well have opened the way for other candidates. 

Netherlands v England - UEFA Nations League Semi-Final

It's no coincidence that Liverpool conceded fewer goals than any other Premier League side this season. 

And an astonishing statistic has been doing the rounds since Saturday night's win over Tottenham. 

According to Opta, no opposition player has dribbled past van Dijk in any of his last 64 appearances in all competitions for Liverpool. 

Put simply, if he doesn't win the Ballon d'Or this year, then centre-backs everywhere might as well give up. 

It would be fitting, after the drama of the Champions League semi-finals, if van Dijk did pip Messi to the highest individual honour in the game.

Should van Dijk win the Ballon d'Or ahead of Messi? Have your say in the comments. 

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