Ballon d’Or 2019 result: Lionel Messi beat Virgil van Dijk by just seven votes – his slimmest victory ever

Jack de Menezes
The Independent
Lionel Messi beat Virgil van Dijk to the Ballon d'Or award by just seven votes: AFP via Getty
Lionel Messi beat Virgil van Dijk to the Ballon d'Or award by just seven votes: AFP via Getty

The sight of Lionel Messi winning the Ballon d’Or award is not an unfamiliar one.

Between the Barcelona forward and arch rival Cristiano Ronaldo, the pair have shared the award 11 times in the last dozen years, with Messi picking up his sixth gong on Monday night to reclaim his title as the best footballer on the planet.

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But despite the 32-year-old finishing just ahead of Ronaldo in four of his past triumphs, this time it was Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk who provided the stiffest competition – and the margin has never been tighter.

In what is the slimmest advantage of all six of Messi’s triumphs, the Barcelona maestro earned 686 points in the France Football annual vote for the best player on the planet, pipping Van Dijk to the gong by surpassing his 679 points.

Van Dijk came within a whisker of becoming only the fourth defender of all time to win the award, with Franz Beckenbauer, Matthias Sammer and Fabio Cannovaro the only names before him to have plied their trade at the back.

In fact, Van Dijk was selected as the No 1 choice eight times more than Messi, with the Liverpool defender’s tally of 69 beating the 61 of the Argentine midfielder. However, the presence of Messi in almost all of the top-five selections meant that he was able to bridge the gap to Van Dijk, who did not feature as prominently across the board.

Taking in how different continents voted, Van Dijk emerged on top across Europe and Asia, with Messi dominating in Africa, North America, South America and Oceania. Pivotally for Van Dijk though, the African nations voted his Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane in second place behind Messi, putting the forward 16 votes ahead of the Dutch centre-back and costing him the Ballon d’Or.

Across the five other regions, Messi and Van Dijk filled the top two, meaning that had the vote played out the same in Africa with Van Dijk and Mane reversed, the Liverpool defender would have beaten Messi to the footballer of the year award.

The votes are cast by a prominent journalist or broadcaster from each of the 176 voting nations, with Messi and Van Dijk finishing well clear of third-placed Cristiano Ronaldo. The Juventus forward, who claimed 476 votes, decided against attending the ceremony in Paris so that he could receive the award for the Serie A Forward of the Year back in Italy.

Ballon d’or 2019 votes in full

1. Lionel Messi – 686

2. Virgil van Dijk – 679

3. Cristiano Ronaldo – 476

4. Sadio Mane – 347

5. Mohamed Salah – 178

6. Kylian Mbappe – 89

7. Alisson – 67

8. Robert Lewandowski – 44

9. Bernardo Silva – 41

10. Riyad Mahrez – 33

11. Frenkie de Jong – 31

12. Raheem Sterling – 30

13. Eden Hazard – 25

14. Kevin de Bruyne – 14

15. Matthijs de Ligt – 13

16. Sergio Aguero – 12

17. Roberto Firmino – 11

18. Antoine Griezmann – 9

19. Trent Alexander-Arnold – 8

=20. Dusan Tadic – 5

=20. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 5

22. Son Heung-min – 4

23. Hugo Lloris – 3

=24. Kalidou Koulibaly – 2

=24. Marc-Andre ter Stegen – 2

=26. Karim Benzema – 1

=26. Giorginio Wijnaldum – 1

=28. Donny van de Beek – 0

=28. Joao Felix – 0

=28. Marquinhos – 0

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