Jose Mourinho has backed Virgil van Dijk to win the Ballon d’Or but believes the Liverpool centre-back may need to win the inaugural UEFA Nations League to claim football’s top individual prize.
The Dutch defender has had a tremendous campaign, winning the PFA Player of the Year award as Liverpool fell just short of claiming the Premier League title, only losing once all season.
He was also named man of the match in Liverpool’s Champions League final victory over Tottenham in Madrid on Saturday night, once again not putting a foot out of place.
No defender has won the Ballon d’Or – or even been nominated – since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 but Mourinho believes one more title can make Van Dijk a real contender.
‘I think Van Dijk, why not a defender?’ said Mourinho on Russia Today when asked who could win the Ballon d’Or.
‘He didn’t win the Premier League in spite of being the best player, or considered the best player, but if Holland manage to go to Portugal and win [the Nations League] – a small trophy, but a trophy – that can play [a role].’
However, Mourinho acknowledges that there is plenty of competition for the prize, continuing: ‘Lionel Messi with Argentina in the Copa America. [Mohamed] Salah and [Sadio] Mane in the African Cup.
‘I think Salah better last season than this season but European champion. Mane fantastic all season, European champion and I think Senegal is qualified for the final phase.’
Van Dijk was asked about the Ballon d’Or straight after the Champions League final and gave his own take: ‘I think Messi is the best player in the world. He should win the Ballon d’Or.
‘So I’m not thinking of that. But if I win, I’ll take it. Messi should win it though. He is the best in the world, whether he’s in the final or not.’