Klopp: VVD enjoyed best-ever season by a defender but Leo the greatest I’ve seen

Lionel Messi is a worthy winner of six Ballons d’Or, says Jurgen Klopp, with there no complaints from the Liverpool manager at seeing Virgil van Dijk overlooked despite the Dutchman enjoying the “most impressive season ever” from a defender.

Klopp admits that the South American superstar is the finest player he has had the pleasure of watching, with it difficult to argue against him landing any prize.

The Liverpool boss is, however, eager to recognise that Van Dijk reached a similar level over the course of the past 12 months, with it rare for players in his position to earn such big billing.

The Reds boss told reporters when asked for his take on the Ballon d’Or pecking order: “That is how people see it. Absolutely no problem.

“Lionel Messi is probably the best player I saw in my lifetime. Maradona, but I see Messi more often. Lionel rightly so won it six times.

“Cannot remember a more impressive season for a defender, ever.”

Van Dijk’s presence is considered to have contributed significantly to Liverpool becoming European champions and serious contenders for the Premier League title.

The £75 million ($97m) invested in him has already been repaid, with Klopp hoping to see the 28-year-old – and many of those around them – push themselves back into contention for future honours.

He added: “We played an outstanding season, we won the Champions League and got 97 points, we cannot do that without top performing players.

“It is nice but it is last season, I am sure now all awards are done and the boys can go for new awards if they want.”

The next challenge facing Liverpool is a Merseyside derby date with Everton on Wednesday.

A meeting between two arch-rivals is expected to be full of passion, but Klopp has confirmed that Joel Matip will once again be missing for the Reds.

He said: “Joel needs a bit more time. It’s healing but it’s not exactly how we wished for so that will take a while. The rest are fit.