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How Sadio Mane cost Virgil Van Dijk the 2019 Ballon d’Or award

The Liverpool center back was voted No. 1 more times than Lionel Messi but was unable to clinch the first Ballon d’Or of his career. We explain why Sadio Mane is to blame.

Lionel Messi clinched the sixth Ballon d’Or of his trophy-laden career by defeating Virgil Van Dijk with a margin of only seven votes, as per the voting results.

How Sadio Mane cost Virgil Van Dijk the 2019 Ballon d’Or award

The Liverpool center back was voted No. 1 more times than Lionel Messi but was unable to clinch the first Ballon d’Or of his career.

Lionel Messi clinched the sixth Ballon d’Or of his trophy-laden career by defeating Virgil Van Dijk with a margin of only seven votes, as per the voting results.

His seven-point victory means that this was the slimmest margin of any of Messi’s triumphs, as the Barcelona maestro added yet another award to his trophy cabinet.

Van Dijk came within an arm’s length of becoming the fourth defender in history to take the award home, with the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Matthias Sammer, and Fabio Cannavaro the only three defenders who have their name on the victors’ list.

However, while the Dutch defender finished behind the Barcelona superstar, it wasn’t Messi who cost Van Dijk his maiden Ballon d’Or award. Rather, it was his Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane who inadvertently made sure that the Dutchman would return to the Merseyside empty-handed.Final voting results show that Van Dijk was voted No.1 more times than both Lionel Messi as well as Cristiano Ronaldo.

The 27-year-old center back was selected as the No.1 choice 69 times in total, beating the 61 votes which Messi got for the top spot. However, since Messi was present in almost all of the voters’ top-five nominations, he was able to close the gap with Van Dijk whose fortunes fluctuated across the board.

Considering the voting patterns of different continents, the Liverpool center-back got the top spot across Asia and Europe, with Messi dominating in Oceania, South America, North America. Though it was the voting pattern in Africa, where Messi got the top spot, which cost the Liverpool defender the award.

All the African nations voted to give Messi the top spot, however, instead of voting Van Dijk for the 2nd place, they chose the Senegal international Mane as their second choice, leaving the Dutchman 16 votes behind the Argentine superstar.

Consequently, with Messi and Van Dijk earning top two placements across the other five regions, Van Dijk would have won the Ballon d’Or 2019 had his position in Africa was reversed with that of Mane.The Champions League winner was gracious in acknowledging his defeat and congratulating what he termed as ‘unnatural’ Messi.

“It was an amazing year, but there's a couple of players like that who are a bit unnatural,” van Dijk said while paying tribute to Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, with the latter finishing behind him in the final vote count.

“I never thought that I would be up for a Ballon d'Or until I was actually nominated,” he said.

“It shows a lot about how my career has been. My career has been different from the winner here, I came late, but I never gave up on my dreams.

“I had to work hard every step of the way, so to be here makes me very proud. And I want to work hard and be here again next year.”


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