Virgil van Dijk is undoubtedly one of the greatest defenders of the modern era.
Since joining Liverpool, the Dutchman has transformed their defence and his colossal performances were key to them winning the Champions League in 2019.
But the Liverpool man was pipped to football’s most prestigious individual accolade by Lionel Messi, which was the Argentine’s sixth triumph.
Van Dijk took his narrow defeat well, though. “He’s fantastic, six times the Ballon d’Or [winner],” the Dutchman said about Messi.
However, Van Dijk still found himself at the centre of some rather negative headlines after the 2019 Ballon d’Or ceremony when Piers Morgan took one of his comments about Cristiano Ronaldo out of context.
The Portuguese superstar was absent from proceedings, which led to one reporter saying to the Liverpool man: “Cristiano Ronaldo won’t be here tonight, so that’s already one less rival to care about.”
As part of his reply to that claim, Van Dijk said: “Was Cristiano Ronaldo really a rival?”
That six-word comment quickly went viral on social media, despite the fact Van Dijk also praised Ronaldo to rafters in the interview.
And Morgan, who is a known supporter of the Manchester United forward, took the bait.
In response to a tweet including the quote, Morgan wrote: “No.. @Cristiano is a far greater player, you’re not in his league.”
Soon after that post went live, Van Dijk stepped in and put poor ol’ Piers in his place.
Van Dijk’s response to Morgan
Hi Piers, If you don’t jump on the social media bandwagon and would listen to the whole interview then you would know I made a joke, and only got respect for those 2 😀— Virgil van Dijk (@VirgilvDijk) December 2, 2019
“Hi Piers,” Van Dijk said on the social media platform. “If you don’t jump on the social media bandwagon and would listen to the whole interview then you would know I made a joke, and only got respect for those 2.”
Well played, Virgil.
Van Dijk finished ahead of Ronaldo in the voting, but that didn’t stop him from referring to football’s record goalscorer as one of two players – the other being Messi – who’re “a bit unnatural”.
“It was an amazing year, but there’s a couple of players like that who are a bit unnatural. So you need to respect greatness as well,” he went on to say.
“I was close, but there was just someone a little bit better.
“I’m very proud of what I achieved last year with Liverpool and Holland, and hopefully we can do that again this year. But that will be tough with those guys around here still.”