Lionel Messi is still the best player in the world and deserved to pip Virgil van Dijk to the 2019 Ballon d’Or, according to ex-Netherlands defender Jaap Stam.
Barcelona’s captain lifted the prestigious award for a record sixth time in December, with Van Dijk and Cristiano Ronaldo making up the top three.
There were many who felt that Van Dijk, who played a key role in Liverpool’s 2019 Champions League success, deserved to be the first defender since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 to land the trophy.
But former Manchester United, Lazio and AC Milan centre-back Stam believes Messi deserved to take the award despite his compatriot’s strong performances.
“Normally a defender is underestimated and people don’t think a lot about them,” the 47-year-old told Goal.
“I think nowadays it is becoming better and people appreciate the job of defending a lot more.
“But goalscorers earn more money and they get more attention. That’s how it’s always been and that’s how it’s going to be in the future.
“And looking at the world now, I think Messi is still the best player. If you look at the Ballon d’Or and winning the trophy, I think the right decision was to give it to Messi.
“I would have liked to give it to Virgil because I think he’s done great. It’s not that I don’t want him to win it, but I think Messi and what he is doing year in, year out, scoring goals and creating goals with the pressure he’s under, I think he deserves it.”