Legendary former Liverpool goalkeeper Ray Clemence reckons Reds stalwart Virgil van Dijk deserves to win the 2019 Ballon d’Or award.
The players that win illustrious awards, such as the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or, are often attacking players but defenders are the unsung heroes of the beautiful game.
It’s been 13 years since Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro won the Ballon d’Or. The 2006 award was also the closest a goalkeeper has come to winning since Lev Yashin’s 1963 triumph; as Gigi Buffon finished second to his fellow countryman.
Cannavaro and Buffon were instrumental in their nation’s first World Cup since the ’80s as the Italians managed five clean sheets throughout the tournament – the best that year.
Since then, aside from Manuel Neuer’s bronze award in 2014, only midfielders and forwards have been inside the top three for the prize – it’s not a big surprise that Clemence has backed the Netherlands international for the award.
“Who had the biggest influence for Liverpool over the full year? I would say it was van Dijk,” the Liverpool legend told Goal. “There’s an obsession with attacking and creative players winning it.
“It is more difficult to create and score goals but when you have an influence over a side like van Dijk had last season, it wasn’t just what he did, it was what he gave. I think he should be a very strong contender for it.
“Alisson and van Dijk have been massive. I like to put the two of them together because I think the two of them have been a massive influence at Liverpool defensively and on the whole team as well.
“A year ago, if Liverpool went 1-0 up, you thought they are probably going to need to score another goal because they could concede one somewhere. van Dijk and Alisson being alongside young, talented players have meant they can win with a single goal.
“The main two help with their experience. They are very difficult to beat and that’s what happened in the final. Alisson made a few excellent saves in the second half. I think Tottenham would have gone on to win the game had they got that equaliser.”