Last updated 10 months ago | By Mirror
Lionel Messi is set to pip Virgil van Dijk to the Ballon d'Or when the award is handed out in Paris next week.
The Barcelona superstar has emerged as favourite to claim football's biggest individual honour, ahead of the Liverpool defender, after the pair have traded honours in recent months.
Van Dijk took the top award at UEFA's awards back in August, following his displays in last season's Champions League.
But he was beaten to FIFA's The Best Men's Player award back in September, with 32 year-old Messi emerging triumphant in a glitzy award ceremony in Milan.
Now Messi, who won the 10th La Liga title of his illustrious career last term, is seemingly set to pip the Dutch giant and land his sixth crown, as awarded by France Football.
Messi has already emerged as favourite with bookmakers, since the closing date of November 9 for journalists' votes from around the world.
And now Messi appears set to land the award as France Football prepare for their post-awards issue.
Protocol ahead of the Golden Ball formalities usually sees a team from the magazine travel to visit the winner in the week preceding the awards ceremony.
According to Mundo Deportivo, a team from France Football did indeed travel to Barcelona on Monday to interview Messi for their upcoming issue; Messi’s representatives would neither confirm nor deny the meeting.
The claims also come at a time where Messi, as part of an upcoming documentary for OTRO, has posed with his five golden ball trophies ahead of the 64th annual Ballon d'Or ceremony in Paris, taking place on Monday December 2.
Messi holds the joint-record for most wins of the award with five, along with long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp declared on Sunday night that Van Dijk should be the winner if the award stays true to its roots.
"If you give the Ballon d'Or to the best player of his generation, you give it always to Lionel Messi, that's how it is," said Klopp. "If you give it to the best player of last season then it was Virgil van Dijk.
"I don't know exactly how it will work but that's how I see it.
"If it's for the best player, the best player at all, and of all, then it's Lionel, (but if it is for) best player of last season, (then it's) Virgil. We will see."
Messi will make his 700th appearance for Barcelona when they face Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday.
He follows Xavi Hernandez in reaching that landmark, having made his competitive senior debut at the age of 17 in 2004.
But never before have the Blaugrana looked quite so dependent on the Argentine, with big-money summer signing Antoine Griezmann struggling for form and confidence.
Barca were unconvincing in their 2-1 win at Levante on Saturday and Griezmann admits he still hasn't fully adapted to working with his attacking teammates.
"I still don't understand Messi, Suarez and Dembele's movements," he commented,speaking to RMC.
"Sometimes it's tough. You don't have have the confidence with the ball and that leads to mistakes when you shoot or play a pass."