Ballon d’Or nominee Virgil Van Dijk already feels like a winner

Virgil Van Dijk already feels like a winner after being nominated for this year’s Ballon d’Or.

The winner of the prestigious award for the world’s best player will be announced at a glittering ceremony in Paris on Monday.

Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi is favourite to take the prize for a record sixth time but inspirational Liverpool defender Van Dijk is expected to provide strong competition.

Holland international Van Dijk, a cornerstone of Liverpool’s Champions League success last season and UEFA Player of the Year, came second to Messi in the voting for FIFA World Player of the Year in September.

Van Dijk, 28, said: “I am going to have a look at what it is about. I am going to be there for a reason and there are no losers on the evening.

“I am very proud to be in that bracket, to be in there for the way I performed with the team last year and also with the country.

“It is just something to be proud of because not a lot of players go there and are up for these kind of things.

“There’s going to be a winner but there are no losers. We will see what happens.”

The 30 nominees for the Ballon d’Or were announced in October.

Van Dijk was one of seven Liverpool players on the shortlist along with goalkeeper Alisson Becker, defender Trent Alexander-Arnold, midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and forwards Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

Manchester City had five players nominated in Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez with Tottenham duo Hugo Lloris and Son Heung-min also featuring.

Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also made the list, as did former Chelsea star, now of Real Madrid, Eden Hazard. Cristiano Ronaldo – like Messi, also a five-time winner – was again nominated.

England pair Lucy Bronze and Ellen White were on the shortlist for the women’s award.

The awards ceremony comes at an awkward time for the Premier League ahead of a midweek round of fixtures.

Leaders Liverpool are back in action as they host neighbours Everton in the Merseyside derby on Wednesday.

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The Reds have opened up a big lead at the top but Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Brighton was a nervy affair and the team have now gone 12 games without keeping a clean sheet in all competitions.

Van Dijk said: “It annoys me and it is a negative, to be fair. As a defence we know we can do a lot better than we do, especially with the clean sheets.

“But if we are winning games then we shouldn’t look too much at it.

“We are in a good situation points-wise but we know we can do, maybe, that extra 10 per cent still.”

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