Lionel Messi beat Virgil van Dijk to the Ballon d'Or by just seven points

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Lionel Messi scooped his sixth Ballon d'Or on Monday night. 

But his record-breaking win was almost stopped by Virgil van Dijk.

The Liverpool star came second, but only by seven points in what was actually the closest vote since 1996. 

Messi won with 686 points to Van Dijk's 679, proving that this year, there was very little to choose between the top two superstars.

The last time a Ballon d'Or vote was this close, it was Matthias Sammer scooping the award ahead of Ronaldo Nazario 23 years ago. 

In 1996, the German won 144 points, while his Brazilian rival picked up 143. 

Since then, we've had a pretty clear winner every year, so Van Dijk should take great pride in coming so close. 

In fact, he and Messi were miles ahead of the chasing pack too. 

Messi won his sixth Ballon d'Or

Cristiano Ronaldo secured third place with 476 points, while Liverpool duo Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah rounded off the top five, with 347 and 178 points respectively. 

Despite the fact Van Dijk was so close to winning himself, he acted with a real class when interviewed shortly after.

"Unfortunately there are a couple of players like him [Messi] that are unnatural," the Dutch defender said.

Van Dijk gave a classy interview

"He's fantastic, six times the Ballon D'Or [winner]. You need to respect greatness as well... I was close, but it was just someone was a little bit better.

"I'm very proud of what I've achieved last year and hopefully we can do that again this year." 

What a class act. Van Dijk actually puts third-place Ronaldo to shame, considering the Juventus star didn't even turn up to the Ballon d'Or ceremony.

Van Dijk showed his class on the night

Instead, CR7 was present in Italy, where he collected the Serie A Most Valuable Player award for the 2018/19 season. 

But Monday night was all about Messi and Van Dijk. Perhaps if Liverpool can secure the Premier League title this year, it might be the Dutchman in first, rather than second in 2020.   

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