Liverpool star Virgil Van Dijk ODDS-ON to win the Ballon d’Or ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo

7 Jun

Liverpool hero Virgil Van Dijk is now odds on to win the Ballon d’Or after a flurry of bets with bookmakers.

The Netherlands captain put in a typically imperious performance against England in the Nations League semi-final on Thursday night.

Virgil Van Dijk has overtaken Messi in the race for the 2019 Ballon d’Or
GETTY

Van Dijk will now pit his wits against Cristiano Ronaldo in Sunday’s final against Portugal, with the £75million man hoping to lead his side to glory.

After winning the Champions League and narrowly missing out on the Premier League title, the 27-year-old has now overtaken Lionel Messi as the favourite to win the Ballon d’Or.

According to Oddschecker, the Dutch defender was 7/1 to win the award in May but has now shortened drastically due to a spate of bets on the centre back, with 46% of all bets in the last 24 hours and 42% of all bets in the past week.

Oddschecker spokesperson Callum Wilson: “Virgil van Dijk’s imperious performances for both club and country this season have not just been noticed by fans, but by punters in equal measure.

Sadio Mane is also in contention for the prestigious award
Reuters

“A spate of bets on the Liverpool stalwart has seen him overtake the consensus best player in the world, Lionel Messi, for the first time this season.

“Luca Modric proved last year that it is possible to break the Messi-Ronaldo stranglehold and punters will be watching closely to see if a certain Dutchman can repeat the feat.”

BALLON D'OR LATEST ODDS

  • Virgil van Dijk – 8/11
  • Lionel Messi – 6/5
  • Sadio Mane – 20/1
  • Mohammed Salah – 20/1
  • Cristiano Ronaldo – 25/1
  • Raheem Sterling – 25/1
  • Eden Hazard – 40/1

Virgil van Dijk: Liverpool defender should win Ballon d’Or ahead of Lionel Messi, says Reds legend John Barnes

3 Jun

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk deserves to win this year’s Ballon d’Or after claiming the Champions League title, according to Anfield legend John Barnes.

You would struggle to find another player who has made as much of an impact as the Dutchman has in 18 months at Anfield.

Virgil van Dijk has cemented his status as one of the world’s best defenders by lifting the European Cup
GETTY

In future years, Van Dijk’s £75million arrival in January 2018 may be remembered as the starting point of a new era of success for the Merseyside giants – people will talk about BVD (before Van Dijk) and AVD (after Van Dijk).

In fact, had the club not signed the centre-back or £67m goalkeeper Alisson, Liverpool probably wouldn’t be celebrating their sixth European Cup success – both were key in their scrappy final victory over Tottenham in Madrid.

PFA Player of the Year Van Dijk has cemented his status as one of the world’s best defenders this season, and Barnes believes he would be a worthy winner when the Ballon d’Or is awarded later in the year.

He is undoubtedly the strongest contender to rival Lionel Messi for the gong.

Fans raged last year when World Cup and Champions League winner Luka Modric won the prize ahead of Messi, who finished fifth in the voting despite scoring 45 goals and winning LaLiga and Copa del Rey titles for Barcelona.

This season, Messi scored a stunning 51 goals and provided 22 assists in 50 games for Barca, and has been widely tipped to win his SEVENTH Golden Ball.

No opposition player has completed a dribble past Virgil van Dijk in any of his last 64 appearances in all competitions for Liverpool
getty

But, asked if Van Dijk on course to win the coveted gong, Barnes told talkSPORT: “Very possibly.

“Normally when you look at the Ballon d’Or winners, they’re either attacking midfield players or centre-forwards. They are goalscorers and eye-catching players.

LIVE ON talkSPORT

talkSPORT is your home of live football! Here's what's coming up on talkSPORT and talkSPORT 2...

  • Portugal vs Switzerland (Wednesday, 7:45pm) – talkSPORT
  • Netherlands vs England (Thursday, 7:45pm) – talkSPORT
  • France vs South Korea (Friday, 8pm) – talkSPORT
  • Denmark vs Republic of Ireland (Friday, 7:45pm) – talkSPORT 2
  • Croatia vs Wales (Saturday, 2pm) – talkSPORT
  • England vs Scotland (Sunday, 5pm) – talkSPORT

“But there haven’t been any of those types of players who have really set the world alight this season.

“So from a point of consistency and from a point of success, for me Van Dijk would have to be the man.”

Virgil van Dijk: PFA winner focused on Lionel Messi and Barcelona, dismissing Ballon d’Or talk

29 Apr

Virgil van Dijk has dismissed the idea he is in contention to win the Ballon d’Or award and is instead focused on dealing with ‘out of this world’ Lionel Messi.

The Liverpool centre-back was crowned PFA Players’ Player of the Year on Sunday for his standout Premier League season, but faces a tough test in the Champions League semi-final on Wednesday.

Van Dijk has won the top individual prize in English football this season

The 27-year-old’s rock-solid form at the heart of the Reds’ defence has helped keep his side in contention for their first league title in 29 years and seen them once again progress to the semi-finals of the Champions League.

Spanish title-winners Barcelona await Van Dijk in the last four of the European competition, with the first leg at the Nou Camp, a game you can listen to live on talkSPORT.



LIVE ON talkSPORT

talkSPORT is your home of live football! Here's what's coming up on talkSPORT and talkSPORT 2...

  • Millwall vs Bristol City (Tuesday, 7:45pm) – talkSPORT 2
  • Swansea vs Derby (Wednesday, 7:45pm) – talkSPORT 2
  • Barcelona vs Liverpool (Wednesday, 8pm) – talkSPORT
  • Eintracht Frankfurt vs Chelsea (Thursday, 8pm) – talkSPORT 2
  • West Ham vs Southampton (Saturday, 3pm) – talkSPORT 2
  • Cardiff vs Crystal Palace (Saturday 5:30pm) – talkSPORT

And the world’s most expensive defender admits he still has plenty to prove to be considered alongside the continent’s elite players, including Barca’s five-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi.

“Nah, that’s not something that’s on my mind at all,” Van Dijk replied when asked about winning the Ballon d’Or at the end of the year.

Lionel Messi secured his 10th LaLiga title with Barcelona on Saturday.

“There are currently players walking around in this football world that are out of this world basically and they’ve been doing it for many years.

Liverpool face Messi and Barcelona, who won LaLiga at the weekend

“I’m very happy how I perform at the moment, how consistent I’m performing, that I’m fit as well. I think I just need to not look too far ahead.

“Right now we’re in a tight title race, in the Champions League semi-finals against a fantastic team, where probably the best players are playing so we just take it game by game.

“For us now it’s time to focus on Barcelona midweek and then we have a big game at Newcastle away as well so I won’t look too far ahead and the only goals I will set are personal goals with Liverpool.”

While Argentina forward Messi secured his 10th LaLiga title with Barca this weekend, Van Dijk became only the fourth defender – after Gary Pallister, Paul McGrath and John Terry – to win the PFA award.

Van Dijk is the first defender to win the award since John Terry in 2005

Signed from Southampton for £75million in January 2018, he has played a pivotal role in turning Liverpool’s defence into the tightest in the division, conceding only 20 goals in 36 games and contributing to a league-high 20 clean sheets this term.

Jurgen Klopp’s second-placed side sit only a point behind leaders Manchester City with two fixtures remaining.

Holland international Van Dijk, part of the team beaten in last year’s Champions League final by Real Madrid, has previously spoken of becoming “a legend of Liverpool“.

The former Celtic and Saints man feels he must lift silverware to accomplish that dream.

“All the players in the league, I think, want to play for trophies, want to get trophies,” he said.

“I can only speak for myself and my team – we definitely want to get a trophy and we’re working hard every day for it and hopefully in the future that will happen.

“That’s what we’re definitely looking for.”

Fifth best in the world? Lionel Messi made a mockery of Ballon d’Or ranking with a derby masterclass

9 Dec

If you ever needed proof that individual awards are a waste of time in team sports, then this year’s Ballon d’Or provides the best evidence you’ll need.

Lionel Messi is the fifth best player in the world, according to that ranking. Some of those chosen to decide the winner didn’t even have him in their top five.

Modric claimed the honour of being crowned the best player in the world

His masterclass that decided the Barcelona derby on Saturday suggested that assessment may just be wide of the mark. It quite literally had everything – this was Messi in vintage mode.

There was the goal, from a stunning free-kick. The assist, from some incredible work in tight spaces. The second goal, from another equally stunning free-kick. The dribbles, the nutmegs, the work-rate, the intelligence, not to mention the tracking back to defend and win the ball back then initiate moves.

Messi was everywhere, and more importantly he was decisive everywhere, too.

The exhibition started with 10 minutes played, Messi receiving the ball between the lines on the edge of the box, accelerating in a burst then playing a well-weighted pass to the overlapping Nelson Semedo, whose cutback was only just put out for a corner before it reached a free Arturo Vidal.

This was Messi at his exquisite best

It was an early warning shot and five minutes later he was at it again.

Espanyol, pushing with the confidence of a team that has excelled at the RCDE Stadium for much of this season, lost the ball to the worst player possible with a lack of numbers left at the back. Messi was free, in space, surging down the right towards the box, beating man after man before he was brought down.

The subsequent free-kick that broke the deadlock should go down as one of the Argentinian’s best – no small feat considering the variety he has scored.

Dipping up and over the wall then curling into the corner well beyond Diego Lopez’s reach, it marked his 19th in La Liga against Espanyol, more than any other player in history.

Messi stepped and scored a truly beautiful free-kick

The warm-up was over, and the exhibition just starting.

Six minutes later the Rosario native was turning on a sixpence in the box, wriggling away from challenges in signature style, then apparently from one challenge too many, crumbling to the ground. Even from there Messi still managed to keep possession – not looking for a foul but instead shielding the ball before returning to an upright position and picking out Ousmane Dembélé, the only player in space, all in a blur.

The Frenchman cut inside to curl in a wonderful right-footed finish, sprinting away with his supplier, Barcelona’s inimitable number 10, who leapt into his arms.

A goal and an assist all before the break, and Messi wasn’t done.

There should have been more before the players went in for half-time; a perfectly weighted first-time ball over the top to Luis Suarez was begging for the right connection, while Messi’s own header – complete with a leap reminiscent of the one in Rome against Manchester United in 2009 – hit the post.

Messi even claimed a small part in Barcelona’s third as a defender of sorts, racing back to win back possession (and a rare smattering of applause from some of Espanyol’s fans) to start the move that ended with Suarez finally beating Lopez.

In the second half the Argentinian continued to toy with his city rivals, constantly looking over his shoulder and drawing a map of the right space to deal damage.

As it happened, the right space was from 30 metres out, where his second free-kick sailed into the back of the net in the 65th minute. A different variation with less curl and more power this time, Lopez was again beaten comfortably, Messi scoring two free-kick goals in one La Liga game for the first time ever.

As the ball flew past the home keeper silence gripped the RCDE stadium, a number of supporters simply getting up and leaving, resigned. In theory there was plenty of time left for a comeback and tickets aren’t cheap, but with Messi in this mood they knew there was no way to turn it around. It was by far the best game he has ever played at Espanyol’s ground.

It was almost as if he was particularly motivated.

The Ballon d’Or may not recognize it, but there is no other player in the world who can dominate in so many different ways in the space of 90 minutes.


Englishman abroad Patrick Roberts proves leaving Manchester City was a brilliant decision


And this was no straightforward game either. The gap between Espanyol and Barça is the shortest for a long time this season, the smaller team from Barcelona sitting second in the table and undefeated at home as recently as the second week of November, playing some excellent attacking football at their ground. On Saturday they approached the derby with ambition and intent, but unfortunately for them, so too did the extra-terrestrial in the Barça number 10 shirt.

“They can compare Messi with whoever they want, they’re only wasting their time,” Spanish football historian Angel Iturriaga concluded. With the level Messi produced on Saturday, it was almost a waste of time trying to stop him.

talkSPORT host Adrian Durham labels Tottenham’s Harry Kane coming 10th in the Ballon d’Or standings as ‘anti-Englishness at its very worst’

4 Dec

talkSPORT host Adrian Durham believes Harry Kane only finishing tenth in this year’s Ballon d’Or standings “smacks of anti-Englishness at its very worst.”

The award produced a somewhat surprising result with Luka Modric claiming the prize, ahead of five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo in second and World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann in third.

Modric won the Champions League and helped Croatia to the World Cup final in 2018

It’s the first time a player other than Ronaldo or Lionel Messi (who finished fifth this year) has won the award since former Brazil and AC Milan superstar Kaka did in 2007.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah was the highest-placed Premier League footballer in sixth.

But Durham was outraged that the Tottenham and England forward was not higher in the standings.

On Drivetime, Adrian said: “For him [Kane] to only come tenth in the Ballon d’Or list I think smacks of anti-Englishness at its very worst.

Durham believes Kane should have finished higher

“It seems to me that the Ballon d’Or has become the best player in the team that wins the Champions League and that’s not how it should be.

“If you look at the pound-for-pound performances and the level that Harry Kane has kept up does he really deserve to be tenth?”

Fellow Drivetime host Darren Gough also suggested that five-time winner Messi only coming fifth was perhaps more of an injustice than Kane’s position which Adrian agreed with.

Below you can see the discussion between the pair on this year’s Ballon d’Or awards.

‘I would have punched him’ – talkRADIO host Julia Hartley-Brewer fumes after women’s Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg is asked to twerk

4 Dec

talkRADIO host Julia Hartley-Brewer has blasted the co-host of the 2018 Ballon d’Or awards over his sexist comments towards winner Ada Hegerberg, telling talkSPORT: ‘I would have punched him’.

What should have been a highly significant moment for women’s football on Monday night was badly blemished by French radio DJ Martin Solveig, who asked Hegerberg to twerk after she collected her award.

Ada Hegerberg was asked to twerk at the Ballon d’Or awards

The 23-year-old Lyon and Norway star was announced as the first ever winner of the women’s Ballon d’Or at the star-studded event in Paris, and gave an empowering speech encouraging more girls to play football.

However, as she was leaving the stage, ceremony co-host Solveig asked her if she could twerk.

The three-time women’s Champions League winner abruptly said “no” before walking away.

The moment, which quickly spread on social media, has been a huge topic of controversy on Tuesday.

After the event, Hegerberg told reporters that she had accepted an apology from Solveig, who insisted he had not intended to cause offence and was merely referencing an earlier moment in the ceremony when he invited Under-21 gong winner Kylian Mbappe to dance with him.

Nevertheless, it was clear from the reaction in the room that his comments to Hegerberg were highly inappropriate.

Julia Hartley-Brewer joined talkSPORT host Jim White on Tuesday to offer her verdict on the events, and branded the 42-year-old DJ ‘a sexist pig’.

“[Hegerberg] rather magnificently responded ‘…no’, which I think was the best response,” said the host of talkRADIO’s No-Nonsense Breakfast Show.

“I would have punched him – he stole her moment!

Hegerberg was the top scorer in the French league last season with 31 goals and netted 15 in the Champions League, which she helped Lyon win

“His explanation that, ‘oh, I don’t understand the culture’, rubbish! You’re just a sexist pig!

“I’m not a big fan of people leaping on the offence bus at every single thing.

“But this is a professional sportswoman being awarded this incredible accolade, and it’s really significant, the first time women’s football is really being taken seriously alongside the men’s game.

“And for him to basically ask about sexual dancing, it’s just so embarrassing!

“With that said, David Ginola can twerk for me any time he wants, but that’s another story entirely…

“But it is different isn’t it because women’s football hasn’t been taken seriously, it’s all about, ‘oh I hope they get their shirts off at the end’, and, ‘let’s go for some comedy and watch women’s football’.

“The fact women’s football is finally being taken seriously and at that point he sexualises it, it’s just so embarrassing.

“But I love that the reaction is he is the idiot and she has been class personified.”

Hegerberg has scored 185 goals in 149 games since signing for Lyon in 2014

Andy Murray was among the high-profile stars outraged by the incident, saying it was an example of how ‘ridiculous’ sexism is still rife within sport.

Meanwhile, Hartley-Brewer questioned why a radio DJ was chosen to present the women’s award instead of a more prestigious sporting guest, after French football hero David Ginola presented Luka Modric and Mbappe with their gongs.

“I would at the very least expect a top footballer to hand out that award, or maybe another top sportswoman in a different field,” she added.

“I think the fact it was just a random DJ who clearly didn’t know what the hell he was talking about was a bit of a giveaway that it was a bit of an afterthought.”

Listen back to the debate with talkSPORT host Jim White IN FULL above!

Andy Murray rages at Ballon d’Or host for ‘sexist’ comments towards winner Ada Hegerberg – ‘Why do women still have to put up with this s***?’

4 Dec

Andy Murray has hit out at the co-host of the 2018 Ballon d’Or awards for asking Norwegian star Ada Hegerberg if she knew how to twerk.

The British tennis ace says the incident shows ‘ridiculous’ sexism is still rife in sport.

Womens’ Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg with Luka Modric, winner of the mens’ award, and Kylian Mbappe, winner of the Under-21 award

Lyon striker Hegerberg was announced as the first ever winner of the women’s Ballon d’Or at the star-studded event in Paris on Monday night, and gave an empowering speech encouraging more girls to play football.

However, as the 23-year-old was leaving the stage, French DJ and ceremony co-host Martin Solveig asked her if she could twerk.

The three-time women’s Champions League winner abruptly said “no” before walking away.

After the event, Hegerberg told reporters that she had accepted an apology from the 42-year-old.

But former world number one Murray – a long-time campaigner for gender equality, and for two years had former Wimbledon ladies’ champion Amelie Mauresmo as his coach – hit out at Solveig.

He wrote on Instagram: “Another example of the ridiculous sexism that still exists in sport – why do women still have to put up with that s***?

“What questions did they ask Mbappe and Modric? I’d imagine something to do with football.

“And to everyone who thinks people are overreacting and it was just a joke… It wasn’t.

“I’ve been involved in sport my whole life and the level of sexism is unreal.”

Solveig’s comments have sparked a backlash

Hegerberg told Sky Sports after the awards: “He [Solveig] came to me afterwards and was really sad that it went that way. I didn’t really think about it at the time to be honest.

“I didn’t really consider it as sexual harassment or anything in the moment. I was just happy to do the dance and win the Ballon d’Or to be honest.”

Accompanied by a video apologising further to Hegerberg, Solveig wrote on Twitter: “Sincere apologies to the one I may have offended.

“My point was: I don’t invite women to twerk but dance on a Sinatra song. Watch the full sequence.

“People who have followed me for 20 years know how respectful I am especially with women.”

Solveig posted a picture of the pair embracing and wrote: “I explained to @AdaStolsmo the buzz and she told me she understood it was a joke.

“Nevertheless my apologies to anyone who may have been offended. Most importantly congratulations to Ada.”

England defender and Lyon team-mate Lucy Bronze, who came sixth in the inaugural women’s award, believed the incident was just a joke.

Andy Murray helped to break gender barriers by appointing former Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Amelie Mauresmo as his coach in 2014

“The DJ asked each person that won what their dance was but she can twerk, she was lying. It was more of a joke of making her dance,” Bronze told BBC Sport.

On receiving the award, Hegerberg said: “I would like to say a huge thanks to France Football, for letting us have this opportunity to have this award.

“It is a huge step for women’s football and the work you have put down is such an important thing for women’s football and together we will make a difference.

“I would like to end this speech with some words to young girls all over the world. Please believe in yourself.”

First women’s Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg asked to twerk

4 Dec

Ada Hegerberg was asked if she knew how to twerk after collecting the first ever women’s Ballon d’Or award.

Martin Solveig, a French DJ hosting the event in Paris, sparked a sexism row after making the comment as Hegerberg was named the world’s best female footballer.

The Lyon striker, 23, said “no” and immediately walked away.

Solveig outraged many on social media with the remark and has since apologised through his personal Twitter account.

“Sincere apologies to the one I may have offended,” he said. “My point was: I don’t invite women to twerk but dance on a Sinatra song. Watch the full sequence, people who have followed me for 20 years know how respectful I am especially with women.”

Ada Hegerberg claimed the prize

The ceremony marked the first time a separate women’s trophy has been awarded since the Ballon d’Or’s inception in 1956.

Before Solveig’s comment, Norwegian international Hegerberg described the night as a dream come true.

She said: “It feels like a victory for, taking a good step in the right direction for the women’s football. This is a huge part they’ve done, France Football, and it’s positive for all parts.

Solveig’s comments sparked a backlash

“We need help to develop women’s football and I think this is a really positive announcement.

“We’re in 2018 and we’ve got a historical women’s Ballon d’Or, so I feel very proud. It’s not that often that I use the word ‘proud’, but today I am really proud to be a part of it.

“Sometimes you have episodes or situations where you feel like ‘damn, we’re in such a man(‘s) world’.

Luka Modric won the men’s award

“But at the same time, I’ve never looked at myself different from a man’s footballer. I’ve always felt the same: I work hard to try to achieve my dreams like any other girl out there and, that’s the way we have to look at it.”

Meanwhile, Luka Modric collected the men’s Ballon d’Or award, becoming the first player other than Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi to do so since 2007.

Ballon d’or 2018: Eden Hazard believes Luka Modric and Kylian Mbappe deserve to win prestigious award before him

23 Nov

Eden Hazard believes Luka Modric and Kylian Mbappe deserve to win the Ballon d’Or more than he does, despite a terrific year for club and country.

The Chelsea forward earned a place on the illustrious list after a spectacular 2018 where he added goals, assists and consistency to his game.

Neither Messi or Ronaldo are expected to win the Ballon d’Or for the first time in a decade

As captain of Belgium, the diminutive forward led his country to the World Cup semi-finals and also helped bring the FA Cup back to Stamford Bridge.

However, the 27-year-old does not feel as though he is worthy of being called the best player in the world, naming two players who deserve the accolade more than he does.

He even went as far as tipping one of the two to pick up the illustrious award at the glitzy ceremony in Paris next month.

Hazard told RTFB:  “Even though I had a very good year, I have to keep my feet on the ground.

Modric poses with the World Cup Golden Ball, while Mbappe won recognition as the Best Young Player in Russia

“I do not deserve the Ballon d’Or. I think there are players who have been better than me.

“Winning the Ballon d’Or is not a goal for me. If I win it one day, great. If I do not, it won’t be a problem.

“I would have said Luka Modric, but he has played a little less well since August and September.

“So, if we take into account the beginning of the season, I would say Kylian Mbappe.”

Hazard has already won the Premier League Player of the Month of the award, but wants to keep his feet on the ground

Modric and Mbappe are the clear favourites to scoop the prize, ahead of Real Madrid‘s World Cup winning defender Raphael Varane and Liverpool star Mohamed Salah.

Despite winning the Champions League with Real and earning a lucrative move to Juventus, five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo is finally expected to relinquish his grasp on the prestigious award.

 

Luka Modric says he doesn’t really care if he wins the Ballon D’Or: ‘If not, nothing will change’

18 Nov

Luka Modric insists he is not really fussed whether or not he wins the 2018 Ballon D’Or.

The midfielder’s sensational year saw a lowlight on Sunday as England came from behind to beat Croatia 2-1 and send them crashing out of League A in the Nations League.

Luka Modric couldn’t stop Croatia from losing at Wembley

Nonetheless, it will not take the shine off a year which has seen him lift the Champions League with Real Madrid, guide Croatia to the World Cup final in Russia, and collect the Golden Ball award for his outstanding performances during the tournament.

He was named Player of the Year at the FIFA Football Awards and many expect the Croatian to break Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s ten-year monopoly on the Ballon D’Or.

However, Modric is not overly bothered about the award, claiming it won’t change anything.

The Croatian was named the World Cup’s best player

He told talkSPORT: “We will see. I am honoured to be in this competition for this great award.

“If it happened, no one would be happier than me but if not, nothing will change. My year was great and that’s it.”

The Real Madrid maestro began to pull the strings in the second-half against England and he admits the defeat at Wembley is a tough one to take.

With a score-draw good enough to see Croatia avoid relegation, Harry Kane scored five minutes from time after Jesse Lingard had cancelled out Andrej Kramaric’s second-half strike.

The Real Madrid man beat Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to the FIFA Player of the Year award

“It’s little bit painful to lose in this way because we were ten minutes away from victory and two goals from set-pieces is painful,” Modric added.

“But that’s football and well done to England. I wish them all the best in the final tournament.

“I’m not surprised. It’s football. A lot of things can happen in one game. I think they did well.”