the Netherland’s defender was a rock for his club both in England and Europe last season, but did he merit the award over the two superstars?
Rio Ferdinand believes that Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk should not have been awarded UEFA‘s Men’s Player of the Season award, as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo remain the best talents on the planet.
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Van Dijk marshalled the Reds backline throughout a stunning 2018-19 season which saw the club fall just short of a memorable double.
The Merseysiders won their first Champions League title since 2005 with victory over Tottenham in the final, while they were pipped to the Premier League crown by just one point by Manchester City in a two-horse race that went down to the wire.
The Netherlands international’s contribution to that success earned him Thursday’s individual award ahead of the pair who have dominated world football over the last decade, and he will surely be a hot candidate too for the Ballon d’Or later in the year.
But according to former centre-back Ferdinand, recognition of Van Dijk is still somewhat undeserved.
“There is no doubt in my mind that Virgil van Dijk is the best defender on the planet today,” the ex-Manchester United and England man told BT Sport.
“But when a man scores 50 goals in a season like Messi did, or Cristiano won three trophies this season, the effect he’s had on a new championship and at national level as well, you can’t look beyond that.
“People say, ‘ah it’s a bit boring that those two are still winning’ but they’re putting up numbers that have never been seen before, for 12, 15 years.
“I’m a centre half and I’m delighted that he’s won it, I think he’s a worthy winner, but when you’ve got a man scoring 50 you can’t do that.”
Ferdinand added that while defending was a crucial part of football, it is not what fans want to see when they file through the turnstiles at the weekend.
“I would not spend my hard-earned cash to come watch a defender,” he stated.
“Entertain me! I want to be taken off my seat, to scream and go, ‘Oh my God, what a performance, what a goal’. The hardest thing to do in the game is to score a goal.”
Van Dijk and Liverpool will begin their defence of the Champions League in Group E, where they were drawn alongside Napoli, Salzburg and Genk on Thursday in Monaco.
But they are also looking to preserve their status as the only team to start the Premier League with a 100 per cent record after three games, with the next test away to Burnley on Saturday.