Virgil van Dijk sends out warning after emerging as Ballon d'Or favourite
Virgil van Dijk may be favourite to win the Ballon d’Or – but Liverpool’s Dutch centre-back insists he can be even better.
Van Dijk, 28, is in the frame to be named the world’s best player after helping the Reds win the Champions League and challenge Manchester City for the Premier League title last season.
He started the new campaign by getting on the scoresheet as Jurgen Klopp’s (right) men swept aside Norwich 4-1 on Friday night.
And, while Van Dijk was reluctant to talk up his chances of becoming only the third defender in 63 years to win football’s most prestigious individual award, he feels he is yet to hit his peak.
Van Dijk said: “Obviously, I’m honoured to be mentioned as a candidate to win the Ballon d’Or, but the only way I can influence it is to just focus on playing well.
“I don’t have a vote, but I am sure that the guys who do will come up with the right decision when the time is right. If I am picked, then I will be very honoured. But, if I’m not picked, then it won’t be the end of the world.
“Everyone has their opinion, but I feel good, I feel fit and I can keep improving.
“There is still plenty to improve. The only thing I want to do is keep working and keep giving everything I can in every game.
“In training, as well, I want to be an example for all the players that are coming through the ranks at Melwood.
“But I must keep getting better. Everyone can get better. That’s how I feel and that’s what I want to do.”
Germany’s elegant sweeper Matthias Sammer became the first defender to be named the No.1 player in the world in 1996 after helping his country become European champions.
Thirteen years ago, Fabio Cannavaro also lifted the award after leading Italy to the World Cup.
Last year, Real Madrid’s Luka Modric broke the 11-year dominance of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Van Dijk, however, is more interested in team prizes.
Liverpool now head to Istanbul to meet Chelsea in the European Super Cup on Wednesday. New signing Adrian will be in goal after Alisson limped out of the Norwich romp with a calf injury.
With Joe Gomez also easing his way back into the fray alongside Van Dijk in central defence after being sidelined by a broken leg last season, there is a new look to the Liverpool rearguard.
Van Dijk said: “I think Joe did well, but he’s a fantastic player.
“We have a lot of centre-backs working well at the moment. Everyone is fit, so the manager has decisions to make.
“I’m just happy for Joe that he’s fit and he’s playing again. He’s playing at a high level and we just keep improving.
“Alisson, of course, is very important for us, but we have to deal with it.
“Adrian has come in and he’s at that age and stage of his career where he can come in and slot into the team pretty easily.
“Chelsea have a lot of quality and won the Europa League last year, so we know what kind of team we are going to face.
“We will analyse them over the next couple of days and we have to be ready for a big game.”
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