Virgil van Dijk took to social media to respond to Piers Morgan’s claims that the Liverpool defender isn’t in the same league as Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo.
In an age where much of the debate over the past 10 years has been about which of Ronaldo and Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi should be considered the greatest, it was perhaps a sign of things to come that Liverpool lynchpin Van Dijk split the two of them, finishing only second to the Argentine in the 2019 Ballon d’Or.
Van Dijk’s teammate Sadio Mane finished fourth while attacking partner Mohamed Salah finished fifth, with Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe receiving the sixth-highest number of votes.
Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson finished seventh but his night was made even more special as he picked up the first-ever Yachine Trophy, given to the world’s best goalkeeper.
The Brazilian was up against Barcelona’s Marc-Andre Ter Stegen and Manchester City’s Ederson for the prize, with Ter Stegen pipping Ederson to second place.
Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski was in eighth for the main prize, while Manchester City duo Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez ended up ninth and tenth, respectively.
But after Van Dijk poked fun at Ronaldo, joking he did not know he was in the running for the award as he’d not attended the lucrative ceremony in Paris, Morgan – one of Ronaldo’s staunchest fans – took to Twitter to criticise the Liverpool star.
“No. Cristiano is a far greater player,” Morgan tweeted, “you’re not in his league.”
Van Dijk responded shortly after, referring to the rest of the quote which saw him state that Messi and Ronaldo are “unnatural”.
“Hi Piers, If you don’t jump on the social media bandwagon and would listen to the whole interview then you would know I made a joke, and only got respect for those 2,” Van Dijk said.
Hi Piers, If you don’t jump on the social media bandwagon and would listen to the whole interview then you would know I made a joke, and only got respect for those 2 😀
— Virgil van Dijk (@VirgilvDijk) December 2, 2019
During his interview at the awards, Van Dijk said: “It was an amazing year, but there’s a couple of players like that who are a bit unnatural. So you need to respect greatness as well.
“I was close, but there was just someone a little bit better.
“I’m very proud of what I achieved last year with Liverpool and Holland, and hopefully we can do that again this year. But that will be tough with those guys around here still.”