2019 Ballon d’Or: who if not Virgil?

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The Dutchman is odds-on favourite to win this year’s Ballon d’Or – and told BBC Sport: “If I am rewarded for the season I had that would be unbelievable and I would be so proud.”

Should he win? And who else is in the running? We take a look…

Van Dijk, 28, was probably the best player for the European champions, which has been the main criteria for most of the past dozen years.

Since arriving at Liverpool from Southampton for £75m he has helped shore up an until-then leaky defence to an unbelievable level, showing lots of leadership qualities too.

Last season he played every Premier League game as Liverpool only conceded 22 goals – the lowest number in any of Europe’s top six leagues – and picked up 97 points to finish just behind Manchester City. He won the PFA award for player of the year in England.

The most remarkable stat is that nobody has dribbled past the former Celtic player in his past 64 appearances for Liverpool – a run starting in March 2018.

Is that one of those stats which sounds more impressive than it is?

Not really.

Van Dijk was the only man to play more than 1,000 minutes in Europe’s top five leagues last season without being dribbled past. He played 3,385 minutes, only missing the final 35 minutes of a 3-0 win over former side Southampton in September with an injury.

Second on the list was forward Sam Vokes, who managed 914 minutes without anyone getting past him before he left Premier League club Burnley for Championship side Stoke in January.

The next top defender not to be dribbled past once in the league was veteran Italian Andrea Raggi, who played six Ligue 1 games for Monaco all season.

Van Dijk kept more clean sheets than any defender in Europe’s top five leagues, with 20. The top four were all Liverpool and Manchester City defenders.

He played more passes than any other defender – 3,037 to Aymeric Laporte’s 2,998 – with a 90% success rate.

Picture: Bailiwick Express

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