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Gerard Pique warns Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk that “this game is made for strikers” ahead of Ballon d’Or bid

Virgil van Dijk

The Dutch centre-back won UEFA’s Men’s Player of the Year award ahead of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at Thursday’s Champions League group stage draw in Monaco.

He is expected to be a contender for the Ballon d’Or later in the year after helping Liverpool to the Champions League title last season.

However, the prize hasn’t been won by a defender since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 and Pique believes Van Dijk might struggle to topple his illustrious Barcelona team-mate.

"I always said that for me, if you have to vote for the best player of them all, you have to vote for Lionel Messi," Pique told the Express.  

"For the last 10 years he has been by far the best player in the world, but it's fair enough that Van Dijk has done a great season and he should be there fighting for it.

"It's not easy. This game is made for strikers. When they score they are the stars and when they don't score, normally nothing happens.

"For keepers and defenders, it's more difficult. When you do a good job it's difficult for people to recognise you, but when you make a mistake you're everywhere. Normally strikers will win it."

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Alasdair Mackenzie is a freelance journalist based in Rome, and a FourFourTwo contributor since 2015. When not pulling on the FFT shirt, he can be found at Reuters, The Times and the i. An Italophile since growing up on a diet of Football Italia on Channel 4, he now counts himself among thousands of fans sharing a passion for Ross County and Lazio.