Ballon D'or 2019: Van Dijk, Messi, Bernardo Silva? Ronaldo an underdog for once
2018 was the year that Lionel Messi famously finished 5th behind Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezman, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric in the Ballon d'or.
This year Messi has shown his ability to bounce back from that, taking Barcelona to another League title and taking the record off Ronaldo for the highest scorer in the Champions League season. At the mid point of the Spanish season, it looked like Messi was set to regain his hold of the Ballon d'or, up until a night in Liverpool and went horribly wrong for Messi and his Barcelona side.
The 4-0 result that saw Barcelona crash out of the Champions League, for another year running, was the beginning of the end for Barcelona's season. They would go on to lose to Valencia in the Copa Del Rey final, leaving the Spanish side with what can be easily labelled as a poor season. Due to Messi's continued lack of progress with the Argentinian International team he has not had a much better season then others in the running for this years Ballon D'or.
Rather fittingly in the team that beat Barcelona on that historic night at Anfield was Virgil Van Dijk. Although being embarrassed in the first leg, Liverpool's defence rallied and held a clean sheet at home to Barcelona. This clean sheet was a key part of their success, due to the away goals rule. Furthermore, they then held Tottenham with a clean sheet and marched on to win Liverpools 5th Champions League title. The defensive success of Liverpool in the EPL this season, which saw them hold 21 clean sheets in 38 games, can also be down to a lot of the Dutchman's work. The success of Liverpool saw them break records becoming the highest point scorers to not win the league and, despite losing out to a strong Manchester City side, they showed their strength throughout the season.
However Van Dijk's club success is also matched by the Netherlands recent trip to Portugal in the Nations League. Having already captained the dutch to beat England in the Semi- finals they narrowly missed out to a 1-0 score line to Portugal. Perhaps this match is a big moment in the running for the Ballon D'or however the consistent performances throughout the season make Van Dijk favourite with the bookies.
Van Dijk and Liverpool were stopped by Man City in the Premier League, a team who didn't drop a single point in their final 12 games of the League title race. Finishing the season with 98 points Pep Guardiola's men defended their League title in what has been labelled the best title race yet. The significant role that Bernardo Silva has played in the Man City side is undeniable. Guardiola regularly said himself that a key to their success was the work of Silva.
Just as Silva is on the pitch, he is also a darkhorse for the Ballon D'or having had success with Man City in the Premier League, FA Cup and Carabao cup. He contributed with 7 league goals, 2 FA cup goals and 4 champions League goals. The praise that Guardiola has given him throughout the season shows the important role Guardiola believes Bernardo has had in his clubs success, claiming ' Bernardo can play incredibly well everywhere, give me a team and he can play well there. He does everything with the ball.'
This highlights the respect that Guardiola has for Silva in his team, who also claimed his position in the PFA Team of the Year.
Silvas recent success internationally makes his claim to the Ballon D'or a further possibility. A major part of the Portuguese Semi-Final win over Switzerland, Bernardo provided 2 assists to Ronaldo as they went on to win 3-1. He then Backed up this performance with another assist in the final. International success and domestic success with Man City leaves Bernardo with a possibly surprising claim to the Ballon D'or of 2019.
However with the success of Portugal in another international tournament the spot light once again turns to the 5 time Ballon Do'r winner, Ronaldo. With a Hat-trick in the semi-final against Switzerland, he is undoubtedly still a big game player with a shout for the Ballon D'or. Following a successful season in Jueventus, in which he was awarded Player of the Season and also the Golden Boot in Serie A. Juventus' domestic success has been unquestionable, with Ronaldo's impact being immediately seen as they broke records winning their first 8 games of the season.
However, Juventus' struggles in the Champions League, where Ronaldo normally is so prone to success, may be what holds him back from being the likely contender. Messi ended Ronaldo's goal scoring reign this season in the Champions League and as Ronaldo and Juventus lost out in the quarter finals to the young and fearless Ajax team making it a fairly dissapointing European campaign for Ronaldo. He was still announced in the Champions league team of the year so coupled with his domestic league success and international progress, he cannot be completely ruled out.
The Bookies are also backing Sadio Mane and MohammedSalah to be in with a shout for the Ballon D'or. Obviously both pivotal to Liverpool's domestic and European success. They both shared the golden boot with Aubameyang, finishing the season with 21 goals each. Neither of them should be ruled out however if it is going to a Liverpool player surely the Dutch Van Dijk in has a greater claim to the Ballon D'or.
#1 Virgil van Dijk
#2 Lionel Messi
#3 Bernardo Silva
#4 Cristiano Ronaldo
#5 Sadio Mane