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A LOOK AT LA LIGA

The best there's ever been

Lionel Messi poses with his six Ballon D'or trophies in Paris on Monday.
Lionel Messi poses with his six Ballon D'or trophies in Paris on Monday. / Reuters
  • Virgil van Dijk is a phenomenal defender, but there was only ever to be one winner of the Ballon d'Or: Lionel Messi

As a guest on Liverpool FC's global TV station, I was put on the spot this week when asked if Lionel Messi really deserved to be crowned the best player in the world ahead of their own giant Virgil van Dijk.

I referred the host back to an old commentary line of mine: "Lionel Messi is the best there is, the best there has ever been and probably the best there ever will be."

It could be argued that van Dijk was Liverpool's MVP, the most valuable player, as they claimed their sixth European title and he rightly ran the little Argentinian close.

In the eyes of Liverpool fans, the Dutchman is the boss; but in the mind of the rest of the football world, Messi is still the marvel.

It's significant that by taking the title for a sixth time he moved one ahead of the great Cristiano Ronaldo, making him the record winner of the coveted crown. It's an accomplishment that is never likely to be bettered.

In years to come Messi's magnificence will go down in folklore and we are lucky to be alive with HDTV coverage when he is performing his magic week in and week out.

As van Dijk was scoring two goals for the runaway Premier League leaders, taking them eight points clear of the pack, Messi was scoring a sensational solo goal to take Barcelona to the top of La Liga on goal difference. He was the difference against Atlético Madrid who have one of the best defences in the world.

That is the difference: van Dijk is an integral player in an outstanding team, Messi is the difference between Barcelona and potential mediocrity.

Last season Messi recorded 51 goals in 50 games in all competitions, 36 of them as they won the championship. The argument is that he didn't win the Champions League. In the elite European competition, he weighed in with 12 goals in nine starts. His two goals were the difference between Barça and Manchester United in the quarter-finals and remember he scored a brace in the first leg of the semi-finals against Liverpool before the Reds' legendary comeback.

I realise the last paragraph is too laden with statistics so here is a quote: "It was an amazing year, but there's a couple of players like that who are a bit unnatural. I was close, but there was just someone a little bit better."

That's from van Dijk who came close to taking the best player award.

How did my assertion go down with the rest of the LFCTV panel I hear you ask? Well, one was the club's in-house commentator and the other was the editor of the fanzine so they thought Divock Origi was a ahead of Messi.

For me, the Liverpool centre-half is the best defender there is, probably ever has been and maybe ever will be... but Messi is still the best footballer.

Let's savour him while we can.