Dutchman, Virgil van Dijk who came second behind Lionel Messi at the 2019 Ballon d’Or awards, has heaped praises on the winner, Lionel Messi. Before then, he had been tipped to beat the Barcelona superstar to the honour. But he chose to be gracious in defeat and heaped praise upon Messi’s greatness.
Speaking in front of a star-studded crowd inside the iconic Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, Van Dijk admitted he never believed he would be in the running for such a huge solo prize.
‘To be absolutely honest I never thought that I would be up for a Ballon d’Or until I was actually nominated,’ said the Dutchman.
‘It says a lot about how my career has been, it’s never been easy. My career has been different than let’s say the winner here, I came late but I never gave up on my dream so I had to work very hard for every step of the way.’
Van Dijk then turned his attention to Messi, heaping praise on the Argentine and causing him to break out into a sheepish smile on stage.
He continued: ‘Unfortunately there are a couple of players like him (Messi) who are unnatural, I think they are fantastic.
‘Look, six times the Ballon d’Or, we need to respect greatness as well. 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 with Holland and hopefully we can do that again this year, but you know it’s going to be tough as long as these guys are around.
‘My career has been different than let’s say the winner here,’ Van Dijk added.
‘I came late but I never gave up on my dream so I had to work very hard for every step of the way.
‘Where I am right now is something I am very proud of and to be here makes me very proud and makes me want to work even harder to hopefully be here next year again.’
Messi and Van Dijk took first and second place respectively at the ceremony, while Cristiano Ronaldo came in third.
The Juventus superstar opted not to attend the event, and also missed out to Messi and Van Dijk earlier in the year at FIFA’s The Best awards.