Virgil van Dijk reacted with humility and class after finishing second in the 2019 Ballon d’Or rankings behind Lionel Messi on Monday.
The Liverpool defender praised the legendary Barcelona forward, who landed his hands on the coveted individual accolade for the sixth time in his career.
“He’s fantastic, six times the Ballon d’Or [winner],” the Dutchman said at the glitzy ceremony in Paris. “You need to respect greatness as well…I was close, but someone was a little bit better.”
Some people believe Van Dijk deserved to win the Ballon d’Or this year, including the great former AC Milan defender Franco Baresi, who reacted to a tweet about Messi winning the prize with the following message: “This season the best @VirgilvDijk”
But it’s hard to say that Messi, who has been consistently outstanding over the course of 2019, isn’t a worthy winner.
Cristiano Ronaldo, meanwhile, wasn’t even at the ceremony. He was back in Italy claiming his own individual award over being named Serie A Player of the Year.
The Juventus forward finished third in the voting for the Ballon d’Or and his no-show in Paris was certainly a talking point.
Van Dijk was asked by a reporter: “Cristiano Ronaldo won’t be here tonight, so that’s already one less rival to care about.”
And part of the Netherlands international’s response including the comment: “Was Cristiano Ronaldo really a rival?”
This, needless to say, sparked a big stir on social media.
The outspoken Piers Morgan couldn’t resist defending his hero and sent the following tweet: “No.. @Cristiano is a far greater player, you’re not in his league.”
Piers wasn’t brave enough to tag Van Dijk but the tweet still caught the attention of the Liverpool star, who shut the Good Morning Britain broadcaster down.
“Hi Piers,” Van Dijk began, “If you don’t jump on the social media bandwagon and would listen to the whole interview then you would know I made a joke, and only got respect for those 2 😀“
Van Dijk’s response has gone viral, receiving over 10,000 retweets and more than 55,000 ‘likes’ at the time of writing.
Piers, who continues to state his belief that Ronaldo – not Messi – is the greatest footballer ever, was subsequently forced to back down on Tuesday morning.
He tweeted: “Good tackle, Virgil.. as I would expect. 👍“
Never go head-to-head with big Virg.