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.
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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.
“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.”
You would struggle to find another player who has made as much of an impact as the Dutchman has in 18 months at Anfield.
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.
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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.
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.
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“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.”
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.
“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.
“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.
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“.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
Messi with another stunning free kick. Group of Espanyol supporters in front of me literally got up and left when it hit the net. pic.twitter.com/cggK2OGiWD
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.
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.
Pueden comparar a Messi con quien quieran; solo pierden el tiempo.
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.
Lyon striker Ada Hegerberg wins the first ever women’s #BallonDor award.
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!
“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!
This video of Ada Hegerberg is worth your time. This is why she is the first female winner of the Ballon D'Or. Sadly the video of the goon asking her to twerk will be watched more than this. pic.twitter.com/HxNTDrivrz
“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.”
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 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.
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.
Lyon striker Ada Hegerberg wins the first ever women’s #BallonDor award.
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.”
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.
“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’.
“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.”
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.
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.
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