Jurgen Klopp described Virgil van Dijk receiving praise from Franco Baresi as like “being crowned by the king” after the defender led Liverpool’s strong representation in this year’s Ballon d’Or list.
Van Dijk narrowly finished second behind Lionel Messi in voting for the 2019 award, with the centre-back one of four Reds to be included inside the top 10.
Yet the Dutchman deserved to scoop the individual honour, according to the legendary Baresi, with the former Italy and AC Milan star stating Van Dijk was “the best” when quote-tweeting a picture of the newly-crowned winner.
Sadio Mane came in fourth, one spot ahead of team-mate Mohamed Salah, but received comforting words from the man who lifted the trophy, with Messi stating how it was a “shame” the Senegal forward finished outside the top three.
Klopp was delighted to see his players acknowledged for a 2018-19 season that climaxed with them lifting the Champions League – and believes there is still even more to come from the “incredible” Mane, who played such a pivotal role in helping Liverpool overcome a first-leg deficit to knock Barcelona out at the semi-final stage.
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 6, 2019
“The first three in the Ballon d’Or were Messi, Van Dijk and Cristiano [Ronaldo], then Sadio. That is a nice row anyway, having two players there shows how we played a good season,” Klopp told the media.
“Sadio is in incredible shape. Since the first day he came in, he’s been an incredible player.
“I think I can remember his first goal, against Arsenal. He was running down the line, cutting inside and then, with the next step, with the left foot, into the far corner. I can still remember it, along with all his other goals since then. In each year he has made big steps.
“I saw after how Baresi was really positive about Van Dijk. He [Baresi] is one of the biggest defenders I can remember. That’s like being crowned by the king.
“For an offensive player, that’s like when Messi says something like this. Sadio, especially in the game against Barcelona at home, was quite impressive.
“If he stays healthy, he will have an incredible career. I think he can climb up, Ballon d’Or wise. But other people make decisions, not even Lionel Messi can decide that.”
Goalkeeper Alisson was seventh in the final Ballon d’Or results, while team-mates Roberto Firmino, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Georginio Wijnaldum finished inside the top 30.
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