Carragher: Messi ahead of Van Dijk in Ballon d’Or running

The former Reds centre-back admitted that he would place his bets on the Barcelona forward lifting the award for a sixth time over the Dutchman

Jamie Carragher feels that Lionel Messi is in pole position to win the 2019 Ballon d’Or despite pressure from Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk.

Van Dijk couldn’t help Netherlands to silverware on Sunday as they lost 1-0 in the Nations League final thanks to Goncalo Guedes’ 60th minute strike for Portugal, and the ex-Reds centre-back says he would favour an attacker for the award.

“I saw he’s gone ahead of Messi in the betting,” he told Sky Sports.

“I’d be thinking Messi to be honest – very rarely you see a centre-back get that.

“I think that Cannavaro got it on the back of winning the World Cup in 2006. I don’t think his game has changed too much over the season.

“He’s obviously had a great season but I think you’ve got to win big things and I think that Champions League has put that stamp on him being one of the world’s best.”

Fabio Cannavaro was the last defender to win the Ballon d’Or, lifting Europe’s most coveted individual prize in 2006 after winning the World Cup for Italy and lifting the Serie A title in Juventus colours.

The Italian is one of only three defenders to have made the top three since 2000, with Roberto Carlos earning runner-up in 2002 while Paolo Maldini came third in 2003.

Van Dijk was one of Liverpool’s key men as they stormed to their sixth Champions League title last season, but Carragher feels that missing out on silverware for Netherlands could hold him back.

“When we spoke earlier this season we always spoke about Pique and Ramos not necessarily that they were performing better than Van Dijk – but they have the medals for club and country,” he continued.

“That’s why he’ll be disappointed today [missing out on Nations League]. Obviously it’s not a World Cup or a Euros but it’s just that nice little trophy for his country.

“But I think when you win something big, that’s when you really cement yourself at that level and I think he is the best in the world in that position. He’s proven himself.

“But, Ballon d’Or, I think Messi.”