Celtic manager Neil Lennon "disappointed" in Ballon d'Or decision

By David Walton

December 4, 2019

Celtic boss Neil Lennon has stated that he was “disappointed” to see Virgil van Dijk miss out on the Ballon d’Or this year.

The Dutchman missed out on the award by just seven points (The Independent). He would’ve been the first defender to win the competition since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.

Instead, the trophy went the way of Lionel Messi, who managed to score 51 goals during the 2018-19 campaign (Transfermarkt). His Barcelona side, however, were knocked out of the Champions League by Virgil’s Liverpool in the same campaign.

Lionel Messi scooped his sixth Ballon d’Or (Kristy Sparow/Getty Images)

Lennon, of course, was the man who brought Van Dijk to Britain when he signed him from Groningen in the summer of 2013. And speaking in the Daily Record, the Hoops boss sympathised with his former protege.

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“I was disappointed he didn’t win the Ballon d’Or. He deserved it.

“People talk about the rise he’s made but he was that player four years ago. He’s now playing at what’s perceived to be a higher level and we can’t argue with that. We’re proud of him.

“I don’t keep in touch with him but I know a few of the players still do. He has gone too big time for me! Loads of scouts were ringing me when he was here and I’m saying to them, ‘What are you waiting on? Is it because he plays in Scotland?’ Well he’d already played for us in the Champions League.”

Van Dijk has every right to feel aggrieved

It’s always difficult to argue with Messi winning the Ballon d’Or on an annual basis given the numbers he posts. His Barcelona side managed to secure the La Liga title and the Spanish Super Cup. However, they lost the final of the Copa del Rey to Valencia.

Van Dijk has come on leaps and bounds since leaving Parkhead (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Messi’s sixth Ballon d’Or success does leave you wondering what a defender must do to win the award. The voting is done via international journalists from all over the world. You have to wonder how many of them actually managed to watch Van Dijk on a regular basis.

Liverpool’s Champions League win was effectively built on his partnership with Joel Matip. He managed to post 27 shutouts and helped keep out the likes of Messi, Robert Lewandowski, and Harry Kane respectively (Transfermarkt).

Lennon clearly takes pride in what Van Dijk has managed to go on and achieve. Why wouldn’t he? He put faith in the Dutchman long before Liverpool or Southampton did. He has every right to remind everyone.

It was Neil Lennon who gave Van Dijk his big break (Stu Forster/Getty Images)

As for the Ballon d’Or itself, the lack of defensive winners is becoming a slight eyebrow-raiser. Over the last 12 years, 11 of them have ended in the clutches of Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. Luka Modric briefly broke the trend last year.

So it’s a shame to see big Virgil miss out. Not since Kenny Dalglish back in 1983 have we had a former Celt come so close to the competition. Hopefully, one day, he manages to scoop the award.