Lionel Messi looks set to win a record sixth Ballon d'Or after being backed into a massive odds-on favourite to beat Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk to the award.
Van Dijk has been the odds-on favourite to land the coveted Ballon d'Or - which takes place tonight - for some time, having been a huge part of Liverpool winning the Champions League and making such a big impact on Jurgen Klopp's side.
It looks like Messi could well pip him to it though - just as the Barcelona superstar pipped the Dutchman to the FIFA Best Men's Player gong, and the betting certainly points to Messi continuing the Spanish LaLiga dominance of this award.
The Ballon d'Or has been exclusively living in Spain during the last decade, with Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric winning the last ten awards.
Not since 2008 has the most prestigious individual prize in men’s football been won by a player who wasn’t plying his trade in Spain. LaLiga players have completely dominated as Messi has won it five times, while Cristiano Ronaldo (four) and Luka Modric (one) have also picked up the award for their performances for Real Madrid.
Never before has this award gone to the same country 10 years in a row. The closest any other league has come to LaLiga’s dominance of the past decade was the six victories by Bundesliga players in a row between 1976 and 1981.
With 45 goals and 17 assists across the calendar year of 2019, Messi is a leading candidate to pick up a sixth gong. His play in LaLiga has been as good as ever, from his incredible hat-trick away at Real Betis in March to his two-goal-and-two-assists game against Real Valladolid in October and hat-trick against RC Celta hat-trick this month in which he scored two direct free-kicks.
Van Dijk's Liverpool team-mate Alisson Becker is behind Ronaldo on the list, but a distant 80/1 shot, with the likes of Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane all 100/1 in the market.
Messi isn’t the only Spain-based candidate for this year’s award, however. There are seven LaLiga players on the shortlist: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona), Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona), Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona) and Messi. Each of those players fully deserves to be on the list, for various reasons.
Ballon d'Or winner odds
- 1/12 - Lionel Messi
- 6/1 - Virgil van Dijk
- 20/1 - Cristiano Rolando
Benzema is having one of the years of his life and is currently the leader of LaLiga’s top scorer standings with 10 goals in just 12 appearances. Hazard finished his Chelsea career in style by leading them to Europa League success and has started to thrive at Real Madrid following his blockbuster summer transfer. Griezmann, who finished third in last year’s Ballon d’Or, was once again his excellent self at Atletico Madrid last year before making a move to Barcelona in the summer and has consistently shone while on France duty.
Joao Felix has had a breakout year, initially with Benfica but now with Atletico Madrid, and was this week crowned the 2019 Golden Boy, the award given to the best U-21 player in European football. Marc-Andre ter Stegen continues to produce miracle save after miracle save for Barcelona, cementing his claim to be the best goalkeeper in the world, while teammate Frenkie de Jong has slotted seamlessly into the Barcelona midfield after anchoring the Ajax side which wowed European football last season.
Will the Ballon d’Or be coming back to LaLiga for the 11th year in a row? Could there even be multiple LaLiga players on the podium, as there has been in each of these past 10 years? We’ll find out on December 2nd.
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