Cristiano Ronaldo will come up against Virgil van Dijk on Sunday as Portugal and the Netherlands meet in the inaugural Nations League final. That game will mean an awful lot to both sides who will be looking to win silverware once again. The Liverpool defender will be hoping to lead his side to their first trophy since Euro ‘88 and if he does so, he could well be in line for another award.
In fact, after the semi-final win over England, Virgil van Dijk leapfrogged Lionel Messi to become favourite for the 2019 Ballon d’Or. The Liverpool defender has had a truly remarkable year both individually and with his club, winning the Champions League and achieving 97 points in the Premier League.
He has already won the PFA Player of the Year award for his performances in the league this season but an international trophy could be well tip the balance in his favour, if he can lift the Nations League on Sunday. So by a turn of fate, it could well be Cristiano Ronaldo who hands the Ballon d’Or to his rival Lionel Messi, if he can score a goal or two past Van Dijk on Sunday night.
Both Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are tied on five Ballon d’Ors apiece so the next win for either of them could be decisive as they approach the end of their careers. They were both beaten to the award last year as Real Madrid’s Luka Modric broke the duopoly of the two footballing legends with his amazing season.
Ronaldo, it appears is out of contention this year even if he wins the Nations League for his country on home soil. A disappointing season with Juventus saw him win Serie A but finish fourth in the race for the Golden Boot, with 36-year-old Fabio Quagliarella scoring a remarkable 26 goals over the cause of the season.
The Champions League is the be all and end all for Juventus in the modern era and they were one of the big sides knocked out by Ajax on their remarkable run to the semi-finals. Ronaldo sparked an amazing comeback against Atletico Madrid in the previous round but did not deliver against the Amsterdam club.
It does look as if this year’s Ballon d’Or will come down to a straight shootout between Messi and van Dijk for this individual award and their international success could well be the deciding factor this summer. Messi will lead his Argentina side on another Copa America campaign and if he can win that then the Ballon d’Or will surely be his, no matter what the Netherlands do.
Ronaldo could play his part in preventing the Liverpool man from scooping the prestigious award.