Messi is the greatest, but Van Dijk should have won Ballon d'Or – Barnes

John Barnes believes that Virgil van Dijk should have won this year’s Ballon d’Or ahead of the “greatest player in the world” Lionel Messi.

The Barcelona superstar picked up the accolade for a record-breaking sixth time on December 2 , moving one ahead of Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo’s tally.

Messi scored 54 times for club and country last season, helping the Blaugrana retain their Liga title in the process, but he suffered more disappointment in the Champions League.

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Liverpool knocked Barca out of the competition at the semi-final stage with a stunning 4-0 second-leg win at Anfield, before beating Tottenham in an all-English final on June 1.

Van Dijk was named UEFA Men’s Player of the Year for his contribution to the Reds’ stunning European triumph, which led to calls for him to become the first defender to win the Ballon d’Or since Italian legend Fabio Cannavaro back in 2006.

Unfortunately, the Netherlands international ended up second in the final voting, ahead of Ronaldo and Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane who came in third and fourth respectively.

Former Anfield favourite Barnes thinks Van Dijk deserved to win the award ahead of Messi, but understands why the Argentine was acknowledged once again given “how great he’s been”.

“I love Messi, he is the greatest player in the world, probably ever and he’s had a fantastic season,” Barnes told BonusCodeBets .

“Virgil should have won it, but you can’t argue with the stats for what Messi’s done and how great he’s been. Even this season, this year.

“Individual awards don’t mean anything to me and I don’t think Virgil will be too hard done by either.

“As long as Liverpool win, I don’t feel he will be that bothered by individual awards. Individual awards are for the fans and the media to talk about who the best player is. I thought Virgil should have won it, but it’s not much of an issue or problem at all because Messi is a great player as well.”

Van Dijk is now fully focused on helping Liverpool end a 30-year wait for top-flight glory, after a blistering start to the season which has seen them open up a substantial lead over their rivals.

Jurgen Klopp’s side are eight points clear of Leicester at the Premier League summit, with reigning champions Manchester City already 14 points off the pace in third.

Barnes warns that the Reds cannot afford to drop any points before they head off to Qatar for the FIFA Club World Cup on December 18, with Watford set to arrive at Anfield on Saturday.

“It’s important for Liverpool to win all their matches being in the Club World Cup or not,” he added. “If they lose before the trip to Qatar, they could come back into it and really lose focus.

“Jurgen Klopp says to the players, regardless if it’s a Club World Cup or not, these are points to be won. They don’t need 12/15 – we need three points in this next game and that’s all that matters.

“This is the right attitude to have which is what he does so well. First five minutes we want to make sure we’re running, we’re tackling and we’re doing the right thing, this is how he drives the team to success so often, focusing on everything game by game.”