Ballon d'Or 2019: Lille defender backs Virgil van Dijk to win coveted award this year
What's the story?
Lille defender Jose Fonte has backed Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk to win the prestigious Ballon d'Or award later this year, stating that it is high time defenders get recognition for their contributions to a team.
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Fonte rubbed shoulders with Van Dijk at Southampton before Liverpool bought the colossal Dutchman in a £75 million transfer last year.
Since his arrival at Anfield, the Netherlands international has established himself as a leader at the heart of the Reds' defence, with his solid defensive exploits helping him to the PFA Player of the Year award.
Van Dijk, together with the likes of Andrew Robertson and Alisson Becker, helped to maintain one of the best defences in the English top flight, one that has helped Liverpool to a successful campaign.
While Jurgen Klopp's men missed out on the Premier League title by a single point, they managed to finish the season as champions of Europe after defeating Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League final last week.
The heart of the matter
Fonte has backed Van Dijk to win the Ballon d'Or over the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, adding that he always knew his former teammate would become the best defender in the world.
Speaking to Standard Sport, he said, "I think he has a shot, to be honest. He was named Premier League player of the year, winning the Champions League, why not?"
"We always give it to the strikers because they score goals and everything but it is about time a defender gets one, no? Without a doubt [you knew he would be this good]. I had many conversations with my international teammates, I remember telling them 'listen, this guy I am sure he will be one of the best defenders in the world'."
Van Dijk will feature for the Netherlands when they face England in the Nations League semi-finals later tonight.