- Liverpool and Netherlands’ defender Virgil van Dijk is favored to win the 2019 Ballon d’Or as European Player of the Year
- Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro (2006) was the last defender to win the award
- Last year, Croatian midfielder Luka Modric ended the 10-year hold of Lionel Messi (five) and Cristiano Ronaldo (five) on the trophy
Can Virgil van Dijk buck the trend? The sportsbooks certainly believe that he will.
An average of leading sportsbooks shows Liverpool and Netherlands’ center back van Dijk as the heavy -230 favorite in the 2019 Ballon d’Or odds to be named European soccer’s player of the year.
2019 Ballon d’Or Odds
|Virgil van Dijk||-300|
*Odds taken 07/17/19.
The growth in Van dijk’s chances are evident. His odds to win the Ballon d’Or were -130 just a month ago.
In Defense of Defenders
Traditionally, the Ballon d’Or is about flash and dash. The hardest thing to do in soccer is to score a goal, so goal scorers are generally the players who score the Ballon d’Or.
That’s certainly been the case of late. Since 2008, Barcelona and Argentina star Lionel Messi has won the trophy five times. Portugal and Real Madrid finisher Cristiano Ronaldo has also won the award on five occasions since 2008.
You have to go back to 2006 to find a season when defense won the day. Italian defender Fabio Cannavaro, who split his club campaign between Juventus and Real Madrid, was awarded the Ballon d’Or. Italy won the World Cup that year and surrendered just two goals in seven matches.
Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was runner-up to Cannavaro in the Ballon d’Or voting that year.
Cannavaro was considered the best defender in the world at the time. Currently, most soccer pundits tout van Dijk as the world’s best defender.
Cannavaro captained Italy. van Dijk captains the Netherlands.
Last year, Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder Luka Modric ended the decade-long stranglehold that Messi and Ronaldo held over the Ballon d’Or.
Real Madrid won the European Champions League in 2018. Croatia lost to France in the World Cup final.
This year, Liverpool won the European Champions League. The Netherlands lost the UEFA Nations League final to Portugal.
Is It van Dijk’s Moment?
While Messi did score 51 goals in 50 matches this season, Barcelona didn’t win the Champions League and Argentina failed to capture the Copa America.
Perhaps you could make a case for van Dijk’s Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane, currently preparing for Friday’s final of the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal. But Mane has made the path there a bit tougher for his country by missing two penalties.
Liberia’s George Weah (1995) is the only African player to win the Ballon d’Or.
Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson backstopped Brazil to the Copa America. But Russia’s Lev Yashin (1963) is the only goalie to win the Ballon d’Or.
The stars look to be aligned for van Dijk. The Ballon d’Or appears his to win.
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