Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has backed himself to lift the Ballon d’Or later this year, labelling a likely nomination as a “massive honour”.
The Reds centre-back has established himself as one of the planet’s best defenders during his 18 months as a Liverpool player and starred last term to help Jurgen Klopp’s men win the Champions League.
Van Dijk helped shut out Tottenham in the Madrid final on June 1 as the Reds lifted their sixth European Cup with a 2-0 win over Mauricio Pochettino’s men.
That victory came three weeks after Liverpool had finished their Premier League campaign on 97 points in a season that saw Van Dijk named as PFA Players’ Player of the Year.
Liverpool finished their season with the best defence in the Premier League with Van Dijk marshaling a miserly backline to 21 clean sheets in total.
Such consistently imperious form has seen the Netherlands skipper become one of the favourites for the biggest personal accolade in world football in December, and Van Dijk believes he has a genuine shot of landing the award.
He told Graham Hunter’s Big Interview : “I have no explanation [why more defenders haven’t won it], I can only talk right now and that people are putting me in that bracket now for the Ballon d’Or is a massive honour.
“You have to back yourself [to win] and you know if you don’t, no-one will. We will see, but that people are already talking about it is such a great honour.
“The only thing I can do is to work hard, stay humble and keep improving.”
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Van Dijk also opened up on the Champions League semi-final tie with Barcelona when the Reds came back from a 3-0 first-leg deficit to beat the La Liga giants in the return game at Anfield 4-0.
“After the game, I went to the mixed zone and everyone was asking me ‘what now?’ and I said it felt strange,” he said.
“We lost 3-0 and obviously the first goal I could have done better for – the second and third goal, yes, it happens.
“The way we played and pressed and put them under so much problems, at one point in the game I looked behind me and there is Suarez and Messi on their knees and tired.
“We put them under pressure and I don’t think there’s too many teams that did that, especially over there.
“It felt strange, we were all pretty calm, and of course disappointed that we lost 3-0 because you have to be realistic, it’s tough to come back from a 3-0 against a team that has the best player in history [in Messi].
“So I think we played Newcastle later that week and that was a very tough game. We won 3-2 in the final few minutes and then after that, the full focus was on Barcelona.
“Bobby (Roberto Firmino) and Mo (Mohamed Salah) were out and you want to give it your all. But we scored after three or four minutes and I remember going in at 1-0 at half time, everyone was saying: ‘boys, we can do this. We can do this.’
“And then obviously after Gini scores the two goals and the famous corner [from Divock Origi], it’s just crazy.”