3 Reasons why Virgil van Dijk deserves to win the Ballon d'Or 2019
It was not that long ago when Liverpool was known for its defensive mishaps and weak mentality at the back which led to the team conceding goal after goal.
Since the departure of Sami Hyypia, there were a lot of centre-backs which aimed to fill the void left at the back by the former Liverpool captain.
Although a few of them had some good days in a Red shirt, none of them came close to organising the defence and fixing the problems that the club had at the back.
In the 2013/14 season, Liverpool historically lost the title. A lot of talk surrounds Steven Gerrard's slip, but no one talks about the defence of Kolo Toure and Martin Skrtel.
If Liverpool had a Joel Matip back then, let alone a Virgil van Dijk, do you think they would have conceded those three goals against Crystal Palace, and numerous others across the season? The answer is a simple no.
Jurgen Klopp knew what he wanted to do when he came to Liverpool. First, he organised the team and got over the loss of Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard. And when the club started to play the football he liked, he realised that the defence was not up to the mark. He had his eyes on one defender, and only one defender -- Southampton's Van Dijk.
Klopp wanted to sign the Dutch international at the beginning of the 2017/18 season, but those efforts failed. The manager could have easily set his eyes elsewhere and bought anyone else - he chose not to. He waited for the one he wanted, and when he did get van Dijk, a new chapter in the history of Liverpool began.
Not since Luis Suarez played for the Reds, did one signing transform the club so much. And not even Suarez could lead his club to the heights that van Dijk has. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this century, no single player barring Steven Gerrard has had the impact that van Dijk has had on the Reds.
The defender's transfer fee (£75 million) raised a lot of eyebrows. Two years later, he has established himself as the best defender in the world and is a frontrunner for football's greatest individual award, the FIFA Ballon d'Or.
Here, I take a look at a few reasons why the current Netherlands captain should win the award -
1) The trophy criteria
Winning the Champions League has become an unofficial category in deciding which player wins the Ballon d'Or. Ideally, this should not be the case - but nine out of the last 12 winners of the award have been winners of the Champions League that particular season.
Although not very accurate criteria to judge the best player, it also understandable why this "rule" exists. Winning the Champions League means that your team has been the best in Europe that season; and as such, the best players in the team will be the very best in the world. In the Premier League, Liverpool finished as runners-up by one point and van Dijk was the best player in England during that time.
Of course, to give van Dijk all the credit for leading Liverpool to the coveted trophy would be unfair to his teammates. The likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Andy Robertson, etc. all had a major role to play in the team's success. However, you remove van Dijk from the equation, and do you think that the result would have been the same?
During the tournament, the towering centre-back kept some of the world's best forwards at bay. These included Robert Lewandowski, Harry Kane and the deadly Napoli attack, amongst a few others. Even Lionel Messi was not at his best at Anfield, and the Dutchman had a lot to do with that.
Remember how Van Dijk casually outran Son Heung-Ming and won the ball from him with relative ease in the Champions League final -- a great example of just how dominant he was last season.
Any other defender in that position against the agile Son and fans would be holding their breath. For van Dijk though, the task seemed easy enough.
His performances in the Premier League have also led him to win the PFA Player of the Year Award for the 2018/19 season. In winning that award, he became the first defender to win the award since John Terry.
He was also awarded the UEFA Player of the Year for his performances throughout the season, where he barely put a foot wrong. Most recently, Liverpool also won the UEFA Super Cup and are currently sitting at the top of the Premier League.
As far as trophies are concerned, van Dijk's outstanding performances have ensured that he has won the ones which matter the most.