Ballon d'Or 2019 news: Van Dijk backed to clinch the award by Liverpool teammate Wijnaldum
What's the story?
Liverpool and Netherlands midfielder Gini Wijnaldum has made a huge claim ahead of their UEFA Nations League final against Portugal, by claiming that if Oranje emerge victorious in the first ever title-decider at the tournament, Virgil van Dijk will be the obvious choice for this year's Ballon d'Or.
In case you didn't know...
The former Celtic and Southampton defender has been an absolute rock for The Reds this season, was leader of the back four of the English team that conceded just 22 goals this campaign, the lowest across Europe's top leagues.
He has already earned some individual recognition this year, having been voted as the PFA's Premier League Player of the Year and the Premier League Player of the season 2018/19.
Interestingly, the 27-year-old has never been dribbled past by any of the opposition's player in his last 64 outings, with the giant of a man stopping the likes of Messi, Hazard, Neymar and Mbappe in their tracks.
The heart of the matter...
Netherlands had failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, which was a huge embarrassment to their nation, given that it has such a rich history in the sport. Now with a younger crop of players under Van Dijk's leadership, they have reached the first-ever final of Nations League.
Wijnaldum, who shares the dressing room with Van Dijk at club and country level, says should they beat hosts, Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal on Sunday, the Ballon d'Or winner dilemma will be over with no player deserving it more than the Van Dijk. He told AFP: (via This is Anfield)
"He already had a good season, he is trying to stop everyone, that's the way he's playing."
"For us he's the best defender in the world. If you look at his season, he definitely deserves the Ballon d'Or but it's not up to us to decide."
Facing an in-form Ronaldo, who scored his 53-rd career hat-trick in the semi-finals will be the ultimate litmus test for Van Dijk and his team.
If the defender wants the crown of the best defender in the world, let alone the best player, he has to stop the juggernaut of the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, who himself will be looking to add the silverware to his collection to stake claim for a record sixth honor this time around.
The stage is all set for the first ever UEFA Nations League final between Portugal and Netherlands at The Estádio do Dragão later tonight.