Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk has poked fun at Ballon d'Or rival Cristiano Ronaldo for not showing up to the awards ceremony in Paris, joking that he didn't realise the Juventus man was in the running to win.
Lionel Messi won his sixth Ballon d'Or trophy on Monday evening, finishing ahead of Van Dijk and Ronaldo in the voting, with the Juve striker noticeably absent from the event.
Van Dijk, who was bidding to become to the first defender to win the Ballon d'Or since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006, was asked about Ronaldo's absence from the ceremony, with the 28-year-old joking: "Why, was he a candidate to win?"
It was the first time since 2011 that Ronaldo has failed to feature in the Ballon d'Or top two, winning the award on four occasions during that time.
The Portuguese star attended the Gran Gala awards in Milan where he won the Serie A MVP for 2018-19
Speaking in a interview after his second place was confirmed, Van Dijk was proud of his 2019 but paid respect to winner Messi.
"It was amazing," Van Dijk said. "Unfortunately there are a couple of players like him that are a bit unnatural, I think.
"They're fantastic. Six-time Ballon d'Or [winner], 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, Holland and hopefully we can do that again this year. It's going to be tough as long as these guys are around still."
Messi has now earned the Ballon d'Or honour on more occasions than Ronaldo (five) and clinched it for the first time since 2015, after picking it up four consecutive occasions between 2009-12.
The Argentinian wizard only finished fifth in last year's rankings, but hit the back over the past 12 months with 40 goals in 2019, along with 17 assists.
Messi contributed a goal or an assist for the Catalan club every 61.7 minutes, on his way to winning a 10th La Liga title and a Supercopa de Espana.
He finished top scorer in the Champions League and La Liga and his achievements already helped him win the recent FIFA's The Best Men's award.
Sadio Mane finished fourth and his Liverpool team-mate Mohamed Salah was fifth, with the top 10 consisting off PSG's Kylian Mbappe (sixth), Liverpool's Alisson (seventh), Bayern's Robert Lewandowski (eighth) and Manchester City duo Bernardo Silva (ninth) and Riyad Mahrez (tenth).
USWNT star Megan Rapinoe picked up the women's Ballon d'Or Feminin after her extraordinary performances in her nation's World Cup victory - becoming only the second women after Ada Hegerberg to win an honour that started last year.
Juventus defender Matthijs de Ligt won the Trophee Kopa award, for the best player under the age of 21, after his achievements in captaining Ajax to the Champions League semi-finals.
The Yachine Trophy for best goalkeeper was lifted by Liverpool shot stopper Alisson, who was part of the Reds' Champions League success and their extraordinary season in the Premier League, pushing Man City to the brink.