This blog is hard for me as a Liverpool fan, but at the end of the day, I canʼt let my fandom blind me from reality. Itʼs a thing I’ve tried to avoid, and Iʼve done a good job at it, at least in my mind. So, this blog is simply answering the question asked in the title: Should Van Dijk win the Ballon Dʼor? The answer is always no to this question, and itʼs because of one huge problem; Lionel Messi. Messi should win the Ballon Dʼor every year, as it goes to the best menʼs player from that previous year. He has been the best player damn near every year heʼs played, apart from a few colossal efforts from one Cristiano Ronaldo. Other than that, itʼs been Messiʼs to lose, and heʼs only ever lost it due to whatʼs known as “voter fatigue”. Itʼs common in American sports, mainly due to one St. Vincent-St. Maryʼs high school grad. Basically Lebron stopped getting MVPʼs because the voters decided to give it to other people, rather than Lebron stopped being the most valuable player. Which is whatʼs happened with Messi to an extent, the voters just felt like giving it to Modric recently, not that he isnʼt a great player or anything, just heʼs not Messi. Neither is VVD, heʼs the best defender in the world, yes, and is massively deserving of the Ballon Dʼor, but not as much as Messi. Now, donʼt take that as an insult, as itʼs hard to be better than the goat. So letʼs take a moment to look at how good Messi still has been over the last year, and how good VVD has been as well.
First of all, Messi is a statistical anomaly. He canʼt really be quantified in stats, but even if you do attempt to, he usually blows everyone out of the water. So the stats donʼt tell the full story, and even still theyʼre miles ahead of any one player. I want you to really look at this chart.
Thatʼs Messi (green) compared to Ronaldo (blue). Thats ridiculously superior, a testament to the level heʼs still able to play at. Granted Ronaldo has started to decline due to his age, but heʼs still regarded by some (definitely not me) as the 2nd best player in the world. Well how does he compare to who I think is the second best player; Mbappe? Well, letʼs see.
Yeah, he still blows him out of the water. Mbappe had the slight goal advantage, as well as in xG (over 1 a fucking game!) and in xGChain (see previous blog for explanation as to what that even is). Messi, however, is clearly a phenomenal distributor, being way more pivotal for Barcelonaʼs attack than Mbappe is for PSGʼs. His xA are way higher, as are his actual assists per 90, and his KP90, which is how many passes lead directly to shots. Messi averaged over 3. Thatʼs higher that Bernardo Silva, Kross and Modric. At 31. Insanity.
So now we turn to Big Virgil, why exactly is HE probably gonna win the Ballon Dʼor? Why a center back, not a goal scoring striker like the aforementioned Mbappe, or a winger with amazing dribbling & distribution, like Raheem Sterling? Well, itʼs simple really. Not only is he is the best player for the European Champions, but the best at his position, and is unfazed against the worlds best attackers. Itʼs very hard to quantify stats for center backs, but for VVD, his are so outrageous, itʼs actually quite easy. First of all, he played 5000 (what the fuck) minutes in all competitions. Thatʼs almost 100 hours of football. He is so dependable, the rock of Liverpool for the last 18 months. His defensive numbers are crazy as well. While he only averaged 2 tackles & interceptions a game, he averaged 5 clearances a game, which is an absolutely stupid amount of clearances. Thatʼs more than Varane, even with his insane 6 a game in international competitions, VVD averaged more a game across all competitions. He averaged almost 4 and a half aerials won a game, to Varaneʼs less than 3. Their passing is around the same as well, with VVD averaging more long balls a game, while Varane is a more efficient passer. He also averages more clearances as well, and like most of us know, he was never dribbled past all season. The debate of VVD vs Varane is one Iʼve seen many times, but after reading those stats, itʼs hard to argue against Big Virgil honestly. Maybe itʼs my bias, but iʼll bet you that it isn’t.
VVD has cemented his status as the worlds premier defender, and is the front runner for the Ballon Dʼor right now. His strongest ally in the fight, being voter fatigue, as this award should still always go to that little Argentinian bastard. However, if Messi canʼt win it, I know of a colossal Netherlands player who is surely deserving of it in his place.
Author: Logan Smith - 22, from Florida. Liverpool fan for 4 years now, also just a huge fan of the sport of football. You can find me on twitter @smittyboy8833