Jurgen Klopp felt Virgil van Dijk was unlucky to finish second behind Lionel Messi at the 2019 Ballon d’Or awards but was pleased to see his performances praised by AC Milan great Franco Baresi after the ceremony.
Van Dijk helped Liverpool win the Champions League and finish runners-up in the Premier League with a record points haul in 2018-19, earning widespread praise for his performances in the heart of the defence.
The 28-year-old was rewarded for his exploits when he was named UEFA Men’s Player of the Year back in August, with many experts tipping him to go on and become the first defender to win the Ballon d’Or since Fabio Cannavaro back in 2006.
Van Dijk was, however, ultimately just edged out in the final voting by Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, who picked up the sixth Golden Ball of his illustrious career on Monday.
Italian legend Baresi took to social media to voice his disapproval over the final result, expressing his belief that Van Dijk was last season’s best player.
Klopp sees the former Milan defender’s glowing praise as a real feather in Van Dijk’s cap, as he told a press conference on Friday: “Baresi praised Van Dijk, that is like being crowned by the king!”
Liverpool winger Sadio Mane ended up finishing fourth behind Messi, Van Dijk and Cristiano Ronaldo, with Klopp confident he can “climb that Ballon d’Or chart” in the future if he continues on his current trajectory.
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“The first three in the Ballon d’Or were Messi, Van Dijk and Ronaldo,” he said. “Then Sadio. Sadio is in incredible shape. I can remember his first goal v Arsenal, running down the line, cutting inside – incredible. He’s made big steps.
“Sadio can climb that Ballon d’Or chart, he is in a really good way. Internally, of course, he is not (under-appreciated).
“In the Ballon d’Or, having two players in the top five is nice. Ali [Alisson] and Mo [Mohamed Salah], too. We played a good season. We have to respect that.”
Liverpool are back in Premier League action away at Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon, where they will be looking to extend their eight-point lead over Leicester at the top of the table.
Harry Wilson is illegible to feature for the Cherries against his parent club, which comes as a relief to Klopp, who has been impressed by the midfielder’s displays on loan at the Vitality Stadium.
He added: “I’m glad he can’t play against us! He’s made big steps, scoring nice goals.”
After their latest domestic outing, Liverpool will turn their attention back to the Champions League, with a difficult trip to Red Bull Salzburg on the cards next Tuesday which they must win to progress to the last 16.