Virgil van Dijk vs Fabio Cannavaro: How the Dutchman measures up to the last defender to win the Ballon d'Or
Virgil van Dijk was declared the 'man of the match' in the UEFA Champions League final on Saturday night as Liverpool edged Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 to lift their 6th European title in Madrid. This performance capped off a wonderful season for the Dutch centre-back, having already been voted the PFA Players' Player of the Year.
With Lionel Messi unable to guide Barcelona to Champions League glory and Cristiano Ronaldo taking his time adapting to life in Italy, many are calling for Van Dijk to be awarded this season's Ballon d'Or.
The last centre-back to win the coveted individual title was the legendary Fabio Cannavaro, back in 2006. So how does Van Dijk compare to the former World Cup-winning Italian captain?
#3 League and Domestic Performances
Cannavaro was at the very top of his game in the 2005-06 season for Juventus, masterminding a second successive Scudetto for the Old Lady. Cannavaro was widely recognised for his performances, winning won four Oscar del Calcio (The Italian Football Oscars) awards between 2005 and 2006. He was adjudged the defender of the year in 2005 and 2006 and was recognized as the 2006 Italian player of the year.
The Scudetto title, was, however, later stripped from Juventus and awarded to Inter Milan after the 2006 Calcipoli scandar broke out in Italy, implicating Juventus and many other major teams AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina when a nexus was exposed between team managers and referee organizations, with proof emerging that teams had engaged in selecting favorable referees. Cannavaro was unable to inspire Juventus to the Coppa Italia title, with the Old Lady losing out to Roma in the Quarterfinals after a penalty shoot-out
Virgil van Dijk has had a majestic 2018-19 season with Liverpool, marshalling the meanest defence in the Premier League, which conceded only 22 goals in 38 league games. He also has the unparalleled distinction of being the only defender in Europe's top 5 leagues this season to not have been dribbled past even on a single occasion. His absence in crunch games proved detrimental to Liverpool's fortunes this season, as Jurgen Klopp's decision to rest his star defender in the EFL Cup and FA Cup 3rd rounds resulted in the Reds being eliminated by Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers respectively.