Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk is never going to win the Ballon d’Or despite pushing Lionel Messi close in 2019, says Ruud Gullit, with the Dutch great expecting defenders to be overlooked in future votes.
A stunning 12 months for a Netherlands international centre-half pushed him into contention for the most prestigious of individual prizes.
Van Dijk did scoop the UEFA Player of the Year award, but was edged out by Barcelona talisman Messi when it came to the FIFA Best gong and iconic Golden Ball.
Gullit fears the 28-year-old will never get a better chance to sit on top of the world, with players in his position set to remain on the fringes of the fold when it comes to picking from the global elite.
“The message of the Ballon d’Or was, he’s never going to win it again,” Gullit told JOE of his fellow countryman.
Pressed on whether he feels Van Dijk should have won, the former AC Milan and Chelsea star said: “Yeah, I think he should.
“But, you know, you can’t say Messi didn’t deserve it either. But if there was a possibility to make a stand for a defender, it was this year.”
Gullit is not surprised to have seen Van Dijk snubbed, as defenders have struggled to earn recognition for years.
Fabio Cannavaro bucked that trend after captaining Italy to World Cup glory in 2006, but many other iconic figures have been overlooked.
“[Arrigo] Sacchi already said that Van Dijk couldn’t win it because, otherwise, [Franco] Baresi should have won it already,” Gullit added on a legendary figure he once played alongside at San Siro.
“If Baresi didn’t win it, why should he win it? That’s what he said. He didn’t say he didn’t deserve it, but he said they’re never going to give it to a defender. That’s what he said, and that’s a pity.
“That’s why I say, it almost looks like they say ‘Look, you’re never going to be a contender anymore for the Ballon d’Or’.”
While he missed out on the Ballon d’Or in 2019, Van Dijk did get his hands on Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup crowns with Liverpool.
He has also helped the Reds to open up a 25-point lead in what has become a one-sided battle for the Premier League title in 2020.