Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Virgil van Dijk now odds-on favourite to win this year's Ballon d'Or after Lionel Messi is dumped out of Copa America by Brazil


Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has edged ahead of the iconic Lionel Messi in the race for the 2019 Ballon d'Or, after the Barcelona superstar failed to make the Copa America final with Argentina.

Messi endured more international heartbreak, and was powerless to prevent his side falling to a 2-0 defeat in the semi-final against Brazil.

The loss marks a miserable end to the season for Messi, who was part of the Barca team who were miraculously dumped from the Champions League by Liverpool following a 4-0 drubbing. They then went on to lose to Copa Del Rey final to Valencia on the final weekend of the season.

Messi had been widely expected to reclaim his Ballon d'Or title from Luka Modric - and before that his close rival Cristiano Ronaldo - but Van Dijk's unstoppable rise with Liverpool has thrown him firmly into contention.

A five times winner of the Ballon d'Or, Messi was tipped to edge Van Dijk if he could lead Argentina to glory in Brazil and lift silverware with his nation.

While Van Dijk also tasted international misery by losing the UEFA Nations League final with Holland against Portugal, he became a Champions League winner while helping Liverpool set a Premier League record points haul for a team not to be declared champions of England.

Should Van Dijk be awarded the prestigious accolade, he would become the first Liverpool player to claim it since Michael Owen in 2001.

The bookmakers now place the Dutchman as favourite to win the honour, with Messi just behind with longer odds and Ronaldo in third place.

Liverpool team-mates Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane also remain in contention.

Van Dijk has already picked up the PFA Player of the Season award, taking the honour ahead of title winner Raheem Sterling after being selected by his peers.

Messi, 32, did however continue his remarkable goalscoring form last season with 36  strikes in 36 appearances in La Liga.

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