A dozen seasons of world soccer have handed because the award generally known as the Ballon d’Or has been gained by somebody whose major obligation doesn’t encompass getting the ball previous the goalkeeper and into the web.
A entire lot of people that don’t communicate French perceive Ballon d’Or interprets as “the best footballer on the planet.” The query for 2019 is whether or not somebody who hardly ever scores will be deserving of the game’s highest honor.
Virgil van Dijk, to this point, has scored six objectives on this calendar yr: two within the UEFA Champions League and three within the Premier League for Liverpool FC, and one in a World Cup qualifier for the Netherlands. He nonetheless has one other 4 months to bolster that quantity earlier than the award is offered, however everybody concerned acknowledges he might play brilliantly and never rating as soon as.
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His job as a middle again is to maintain the opposite crew from scoring, and no subject participant is doing that higher. He dealt with these duties nicely sufficient to be named Premier League Participant of the Season for 2018-19. He does all of it so nicely the trophy that has been virtually the unique province of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi since 2008 may discover its approach to a defender for the primary time since Fabio Cannavaro was chosen for his good World Cup efficiency in 2006.
Wednesday at Yankee Stadium (eight p.m., TNT), van Dijk will probably be with Liverpool for the ultimate recreation of its one-week preseason tour of the USA, which will probably be contested in opposition to Sporting CP of Portugal. The primary aggressive recreation of the season for LFC will come Sunday, Aug. 4, in opposition to Manchester Metropolis within the FA Group Defend, and Liverpool’s 2019-20 Premier League season opens Aug. 9 with a house recreation in opposition to Norwich Metropolis.
Is van Dijk presently the most effective participant on the planet?
“He has the head. He has the legs. He has the quality on the ball. He’s very powerful in the air,” Liverpool nice Sami Hypia instructed Sporting Information. “I think he’s one of the most complete defenders at the moment. Certainly he deserved to be the best player in the Premier League, and let’s see now if he can extend that to winning the Ballon d’Or, as well.”
Ronaldo gained the award 5 occasions since 2008. Messi gained it 5 occasions. They completed 1-2 within the balloting 9 occasions in 10 years. However Ronaldo’s 21 objectives for Juventus in Serie A and 6 in Champions League play have been much like many different attacking gamers in Europe, and Juventus was eradicated from the UCL quarterfinals. Messi produced 36 objectives in La Liga and 12 within the Champions League and thus stays a viable candidate, however the specter of Barca’s collapse within the UCL semis – and Messi’s helplessness on that night time – lingers. Messi additionally skilled one other irritating end with Argentina on the Copa America.
Van Dijk doesn’t have apparent, gaudy statistics to impress the voters for the award, primarily journalists who cowl the game.
He does have the obscure, nerdy stats they may discover in the event that they’re paying consideration. As an illustration, Opta declared after Liverpool’s victory within the 2019 Champions League that no opponent in van Dijk’s final 64 appearances for the Reds had efficiently accomplished a dribble previous him. That is a staggering statistic that Tottenham’s Lucas Moura, as an illustration, selected to doubt, however there are individuals whose enterprise it’s to maintain observe of such issues.
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Hypia performed 10 years for Liverpool and performed the total recreation when Liverpool executed its miraculous comeback to win the 2005 Champions League title over AC Milan. He additionally began subsequent to Jamie Carragher within the 2006 FA Cup closing, one other comeback win for LFC, so he is aware of a bit about taking part in heart again.
“When you see him on the field, he makes everything look so easy,” Hypia instructed SN. “Once you see a recreation, he’s guiding the others, and that is so essential. I assume the crew is taking part in higher when everyone seems to be speaking, however there are two, three, 4 gamers who’re an important a part of the puzzle, and Virgil is an important a part of the crew.
“He is so highly effective and he is so fast,” Hypia said. “I wasn’t the quickest participant. That was perhaps my weak point. I wasn’t fast on the sphere; I was fast in my head. I anticipated and noticed the conditions sooner than others. I assume he has every thing.”
Liverpool bought van Dijk from Southampton in December 2017 for $93 million, thought of to be a file quantity for a defender, by others to be outrageous whether or not or not it was a brand new excessive. It has turned out to be, extremely, a discount.
Liverpool allowed 38 objectives within the 2017-18 Premier League season, however solely eight within the 15 video games van Dijk began. When goalkeeper Alisson Becker joined the membership for 2018-19, the goals-allowed complete plunged to 22 for the season, with 21 clear sheets.
“Isn’t everything written about that?” supervisor Jurgen Klopp requested when the topic of van Dijk’s excellence was broached once more. “Good participant, good particular person – it is awkward to say the identical issues so usually. Nevertheless it’s a part of my life, and so I ought to get used to it, truly.
“Virg was the fixed determine in that final line. It felt all the time good while you noticed he is there. He organized lots of issues on the pitch. One cause is as a result of he needs to make life simpler for him. However the different cause, and the opposite cause is, as a result of it is proper. He is a implausible participant, and a reasonably good signing.”