Who truly deserves to be 'The Best'?
The eternal battle between Messi and Cristiano will have one more chapter added this Monday. But on this occasion, as also happened in the UEFA gala, they are joined by another star. A third player who is willing to do what Luka Modric did last season: break the duel that the two players have starred in the last decade at the level of individual awards.
Van Dijk has experience. A little less than a month ago, the Liverpool centre-back already posed with the award that ranked him as the best player of the 2018-19 season according to UEFA. Perhaps a hint of what can be given at the Scala Theater, in Milan, where the event will be held.
It must be remembered that 'The Best' and the Golden Ball are not the same thing. The prize awarded by 'France Football' is based on the calendar year, while the trophy given by FIFA analyses the campaign in question, in this case 2018-19.
It will be the fourth edition of 'The Best' as such - before Best Player of the year. Cristiano won the first two, whilst Modric was last year's winner.
Fans, journalists, coaches and national team captains voted between the 19th and the 31st of August. At the beginning of September the finalists were announced. And now, some weeks after, we will get to find out the 2019 winner of 'The Best'. But what has each player done to get here?
Regarding titles, the Portuguese has had another great season. He added to his tally with Juventus when winning the Italian Supercup in January and lifted the 'Scudetto' at the end of the campaign in his first year as a Juventus player. However, he only got to the quarterfinals in the Champions League, his favourite competition and could not win anything with the Coppa.
Something that can be counteracted by the UEFA League of Nations that he managed to lift with the Portuguese National Team. And, although it is true that this year he has stayed away from his crazy brands that he signed with Real Madrid, he has been known to adapt to Italian football.
Against him he plays the role of having been the least voted in the UEFA gala. At that time, the Portuguese striker only received 74 points, while Leo Messi reached 207 and Van Dijk, 305.
His individual performance was masterful. It seems that Messi only gets better with age. He scored 51 goals throughout the season and another 19 assists. The number '10' incorporated into his showcases a new League. The Cup would have added points, but he escaped in the final against Valencia.
Those semifinals of the Champions League may weigh in the votes. Although in the first leg against Liverpool he scored two goals and proved to be Barca's saviour, in the return he could not avoid the Catalan disaster.
And at a national level it has not been his year. Messi returned to Argentina to play the Copa America, but the Argentine ran into Brazil in the semifinals and could not access the grand final. The national team came third place in the tournament.
In his favour adds the Golden Boot that he achieved the previous season, this award is the greatest physical recognition that he can have in order to add virtual votes for the gala.
Virgil van Dijk
He is the main favorite, especially after having won the UEFA award. With Liverpool he was proclaimed champion of Europe, fought in the Premier League until the end and fell in the final of the League of Nations against Portugal with the Dutch National Team.
Essential to see the whole 'network' champion again, the Dutch centre back has also received awards at individual level. It is not easy for a defender to stand out in the English League.
Van Dijk was chosen as the best player of the Premier League last season and 'MVP' of the Champions League final against Tottenham.
Beyond his titles or numbers, the Dutch defender is that commander who needs a champion team. A man who has made Liverpool one of the strongest clubs in the world.
If Luka Modric was able to overthrow Messi and Cristiano from their list of individual awards, it is Van Dijk who is running to do it this year. Milan will issue a ruling on Monday afternoon.