Virgil van Dijk the bookies favourite to claim 2019 Ballon d'Or

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Virgil van Dijk is now the favourite to claim the 2019 Ballon d'Or, after GiveMeBet slashed his odds to just 4/7.

The Liverpool and Netherlands defender - who faces competition from five-time winners Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi - put the crown on a stunning club season for Liverpool last year by leading his side to Champions League glory.

Van Dijk also played an integral role in Liverpool's record-breaking domestic season, helping his side to an unprecedented 97 points - only to be pipped to the title by Manchester City on 98.

The ever-calm and commanding Dutchman's performances did not go unnoticed, however, with many pundits calling for the centre back to receive the sport's highest individual honour.

Van Dijk's rise through the footballing ranks has been nothing short of a fairytale, with the former Groningen academy graduate having still been playing for Celtic in Scotland as recently as four years ago. 

Having eventually made the move to English football with Southampton, for just £13 million in 2015, the elegant Dutchman quickly established himself as one of the league's most talented and consistent defenders. 

After a move to one of Europe's elite clubs failed to materialise in the summer of 2017, Van Dijk remained patient, and it was this patience that reaped dividends, after Liverpool returned for the defender in December with a bid of £75 million.

Were he to claim the Ballon d'Or, Van Dijk would become the first defender to do so in over a decade, since then-Real Madrid centre back and Italy legend Fabio Cannavaro claimed both the 2006 title - as well as the World Player of the Year award.

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Indeed, so rare is the achievement, the 28-year-old would become only the fourth defender in history to claim the honour, joining the prestigious ranks of Franz Beckenbauer, Matthias Sammer, and the aforementioned Cannavaro.

A win for the now-favourite would also see a continuation of the breaking of the stranglehold on the award by Portugal's Ronaldo and Argentina's Messi.

Prior to last year's much-debated crowning of Real Madrid's Luka Modric, the iconic pair had shared the previous 10 awards - racking up a record-breaking 11 nominations each along the way.

Both struggled to match the lofty heights of seasons gone by over the past 12 months, however, with Ronaldo's Juventus crashing out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stages, whilst Messi's Barcelona were knocked out in stunning fashion by eventual winners Liverpool.

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