Virgil van Dijk says Liverpool are hungry for more success after winning the Champions League.

A 2-0 win over Tottenham in Madrid this month broke Jurgen Klopp's trophy duck at the club. 

Liverpool missed out on the Premier League title, though, finishing a point behind Manchester City in their quest to win the league again 29 years on from their previous triumph.

And Van Dijk, who was part of the Netherlands team that lost  the Nations League final to Portugal, feels Liverpool will want even more success when they return for the 2019-20 campaign.

"I've had a few days to reflect now at the end of what's been an unbelievable season," Van Dijk wrote on Instagram. 

"We achieved great things this season at Liverpool as a team and I feel proud to be part of such an incredible club with this group of players. To be European champions is a dream come true!

"We are all now hungry for more success and will continue to give all we can to achieve that. I'm also excited about the future with the national team and we will look to build on the promising season we've just had 

"Thank you for all of your support over the last few months and I'll see you after a break ready to go again!" 

Liverpool play the first game of the new Premier League season at home to Norwich City on August 9.

The club also confirmed the Reds will play in the EFL Trophy next season.

Virgil van Dijk has shrugged off the peculiar feature of England supporters booing him throughout the Nations League Finals.

Van Dijk headed into the inaugural UEFA event on the back of a stunning season for Liverpool, capped with Champions League glory after claiming the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) Players' Player of the Year award.

While that underlined the esteem in which the 27-year-old is held by his fellow professionals, a sizable number of England fans booed his every touch during last Thursday's 3-1 semi-final win over Gareth Southgate's side after extra time in Guimaraes.

Some of the English contingent at Sunday's final in Porto, which hosts Portugal won 1-0 thanks to Goncalo Guedes' 60th-minute strike, continued this treatment but Van Dijk was unconcerned.

"I don't really care if somebody boos me or boos the team, we're trying to win the game," he said.

"We know we have a lot of support behind us anyway and at the end of the day it's us players who have to do the job. It doesn't affect me at all."

It proved a frustrating night for the Dutch at Estadio do Dragao, but Van Dijk is excited by what the future holds for a team that has bounced back impressively from missing out on both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, under the guidance of head coach Ronald Koeman.

"We have to be proud of ourselves, we made big progress as a team, in and out of the pitch, so we have to keep going and make sure we qualify for the Euros [in 2020]," he said.

Portugal set up with William Carvalho and Danilo Pereira in a robust midfield to counter the influence of Frenkie de Jong, while providing a solid platform for their own creative talents such as Bernardo Silva, who was named Player of the Tournament.

"It's a totally different team we faced [to England]," Van Dijk added, having rarely tussled with Cristiano Ronaldo despite pre-match anticipation of an absorbing duel.

"I think they waited for our mistakes, they sat back a little bit and let us have the ball.

"The pace of the game was not high, especially the first half, but I don't think they had too [many] big chances and were a bit luckier in the end than we were."

Virgil van Dijk believes Netherlands continue to make impressive strides despite their Nations League final defeat at the hands of Portugal.

Goncalo Guedes' strike on the hour secured a 1-0 victory for the hosts at the Estadio do Dragao on Sunday, adding a second piece of major international silverware to go alongside Portugal's Euro 2016 triumph.

Few would have fancied Netherlands – who failed to qualify for that tournament as well as last year's World Cup in Russia – to reach the inaugural Nations League Finals.

However, after they won a group containing Germany and France, Van Dijk feels Ronald Koeman's side are showing encouraging signs 12 months out from Euro 2020.

"This should not ruin our development," the Liverpool defender told NOS after the loss to Portugal. "We are taking major steps as a team, and we must continue to do so. We can be proud of ourselves."

Speaking to Sky Sports, Van Dijk added: "Obviously we're disappointed we didn't win the final, but we have to congratulate them [Portugal] as well. We were a bit unlucky today but we have to be very proud of ourselves, keep our heads up, get a well-deserved holiday now and after that make sure we're ready for the qualification.

"At the start of the tournament I don't think anyone would have believed us if we'd said we're going to reach the final. We made a lot of progress, we have to be very proud of ourselves. Now, disappointment is the thing in our heads but we have to keep our heads up.

"It's been a good season, but hopefully next season will be even better. That's what I'm striving for and it's the only thing that you have to do. I'll get a good break and then make sure I'm more than ready for pre-season."

Van Dijk was a key figure in Liverpool's remarkable 2018-19 Premier League campaign, which saw the European champions amass 97 points but still finish second to Manchester City.

"That's what we want to compete again for and obviously [Euro 2020] qualification for the national team is the most important thing for us, we know it, so we'll give everything that we've got and obviously with Liverpool we'll try to compete again with City because they're not going away and neither are we," he said.

In the 28th minute it happened. The titanic confrontation we'd all be waiting for. Virgil van Dijk blocked a shot from Cristiano Ronaldo.

Except, things never really heated up from there. Of course they didn't. That was never really Ronaldo's intention.

The build-up to this match, where a 1-0 win over Netherlands crowned Portugal the inaugural Nations League champions, focused on how the how battle between Europe's best defender this season and the continent's greatest international goalscorer of all time might play out.

Ronaldo has five Ballons d'Or and is hungry for a sixth, although there is a growing clamour for Van Dijk's imperious displays with Champions League winners Liverpool this season to be recognised.

Earlier incarnations of Ronaldo – think of the Madrid-bound Manchester United tyro who signed off with a 2-0 Champions League final defeat against Barcelona, but not before cramming a ludicrous number of shots into the opening 10 minutes – would have charged headlong into the Van Dijk confrontation.

But the 34-year-old version loiters on the fringes of games. Player of the Tournament Bernardo Silva was the attacking inspiration as Portugal tightened their grip on the opening 45 minutes, all twinkling feet and bustling energy. Bruno Fernandes fired five of the hosts' 12 shots before the break in something of a quantity over quality contribution.

Ronaldo still occasionally indulges such trigger-happy tendencies. Silva covered 13.7 kilometres in Manchester City's Premier League win over Liverpool this season, work that Ronaldo would certainly not see himself having any part of nowadays

Why should he? For all their stylistic differences, this is the big late-career convergence between Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

They've seen these patterns of play, these ebbs and flows over and over. They know they are better than pretty much anyone else who has laced boots. Why get involved in the hustle and bustle more likely to magnify the ravages of age when you can watch, wait and produce game-sealing brilliance?

Ronaldo's hat-trick in this week's semi-final was a fine demonstration of that approach in action, thumping home a free-kick and seeing the game drift before going bang-bang late on to seal the deal.

The other side of this equation is ceding absolute control of events. When Messi's Barcelona were ransacked by Liverpool in the Champions League, he appeared a victim of circumstances his team-mates could not bring back into his gasp. Ronaldo had a similar experience against many of his Sunday opponents when Ajax did for Juventus.

Thankfully for him, with the relentless Silva at his side, this chance to lift silverware before an adoring public was never likely to pass him by.

Where Frenkie de Jong was able to bend England to his will in midweek, the Dutch midfield master found himself more concerned with events behind him in Porto. Which pocket of space was Silva going to dart into next? When would he stop running? Would he ever?

The silky touches thrill those in the stands, but it is Silva's sheer relentlessness that make him a nightmare to play against. Like an immaculate classic car powered by a thundering and unfailing diesel engine.

He snuck between the lines decisively with an hour played, teeing up Goncalo Guedes for a fabulous finish.

In the end, there was no need for Ronaldo to engage in the heavyweight tussle when Portugal's brilliant bantamweight was going through his repertoire, even winning headers against Matthijs de Ligt in his own penalty area and weaving around De Jong again to run down the clock.

Head coach Fernando Santos still thinks Portugal will be able to call upon a 37-year-old Ronaldo at the 2022 World Cup. The sight of the superstar forward embracing Silva immediately after the full-time whistle suggests he knows just how important his country's latest world-class star will be in effectively realising that dream.

The outcome of an anticipated titanic battle between Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk is likely to have a huge say in whether Portugal or Netherlands win the inaugural Nations League.

A stunning hat-trick from Ronaldo saw hosts Portugal to a 3-1 semi-final win over Switzerland, while Van Dijk played with typical composure in a game otherwise laced with defensive errors in Guimaraes – the Netherlands coming from behind to beat England 3-1 in extra time.

Van Dijk was named the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) Player of the Year on account of his imperious form for Liverpool and scooped man-of-the-match honours as Jurgen Klopp's side won the Champions League final against Tottenham last weekend.

As such there is an increasing clamour for the 27-year-old to be in contention for the Ballon d'Or, but, at Estadio do Dragao on Sunday, a five-time winner of the award will be doing everything to ensure Van Dijk's excellent season ends on a low note.

Using Opta data, we have a look two phenomenal campaigns that will collide and conclude in Porto.

Ronaldo – Hitting the ground running in Italy

21 – On his debut season at Juventus, Ronaldo struck 21 times in Serie A. Of that haul, 16 came after half-time. No player in the division scored more second-half goals.

18 – Those goals carried a decisive weight and were worth 18 points to Juve, who won an eighth consecutive Scudetto.

14 – Ronaldo's goals came against 14 different teams. Only John Charles (1957-58) and Brazil great Ronaldo (1997-98) scored against more teams in their first Serie A campaigns (both 15).

177 – Across Europe's top five leagues in 2018-19, no player attempted more shots than Ronaldo.

85 – But this did not come to the detriment of his team-mates. Ronaldo's 85 successful lay-offs were the most in Italy's top flight this term.

Van Dijk – Get past him if you can

64 – No player has successfully dribbled past Van Dijk in 64 games across all competitions for Liverpool. This run includes all 38 of his Premier League appearances this season and stretches back to 47 league games – a streak that began in March last year.

20 – No outfield player kept more clean sheets in Europe's top five leagues.

30 – Similarly, no outfield player won more games in those competitions than Van Dijk this season.

76.3 – The Dutchman boasts the highest percentage success rate of any player in the Premier League contesting more than 50 duels. Of 321, he won 245.

182 – Van Dijk won 182 of 243 aerial duels (74.9 per cent). Only Diogo Dalot and Harry Maguire won a higher percentage of players to have contested 25 or more.

2,724 – In terms of successful passes among Premier League defenders, Manchester City's Aymeric Laporte (2,768) is the only player to have completed more than Van Dijk.

Ronald Koeman believes Netherlands' defensive stars Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt can shackle Cristiano Ronaldo when they take on Portugal in Sunday's Nations League final.

Hosts Portugal booked a return to Estadio do Dragao, where they beat Switzerland 3-1 on Wednesday, thanks to a stunning Ronaldo hat-trick – the 53rd treble of his professional career.

Van Dijk brought an element of calm to the Dutch's error-strewn semi-final against England, which also ended 3-1 after extra time.

De Ligt erred to give away the penalty from which England took the lead but he responded by powering home a second-half equaliser.

The Ajax youngster enjoyed success against Ronaldo's Juventus in the Champions League this year and, with plenty of focus on the heavyweight tussle between Van Dijk and the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, Koeman was keen to point out both his centre-backs are fully equipped for the challenge.

"We played a friendly in Switzerland, not a long time ago, and De Ligt was stopping Ronaldo as well," Koeman told a pre-match news conference, reflecting upon a 3-0 win in Geneva last year when Van Dijk completed the scoring.

"It's not only Van Dijk who can stop Ronaldo.

"But Ronaldo is good enough to create against really good defenders. That's the nicest part of football - you can't do anything because his quality is on such a high level."

Perhaps unlike his colleagues further back in the line-up, Netherlands midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum has the luxury of looking forward to pitting his wits against one of the greats of the game.

"I'm happy that we play against him," the Liverpool midfielder said. "You always want to play against the best players in the world. It will be a big test for us to stop him.

"We all look forward to playing a game against Ronaldo, but it's not only him. He has a big influence on the team, and it's difficult to stop it.

"They have more players who can make the difference, as a team we have to do well to stop them."

Daley Blind, who played at centre-back alongside De Ligt at Ajax this season and operated at left-back outside Van Dijk in Guimaraes in midweek, believes the whole team has a defensive job to put in against a gifted Portugal side.

"They're both great defenders. I think it's comfortable next to them," he said.

"Matthijs is a big talent, Virgil is showing his qualities all season long.

"But our defence starts with our attacks – you can see on the two goals we scored against England [in extra time] when we won the ball high up the pitch and to create chances."

Netherlands have undergone a rapid resurgence since Koeman's appointment last February, having failed to qualify for either Euro 2016 or the 2018 World Cup.

"We know in Holland we can play football but maybe the difference now is there is more focus, more togetherness, more energy in the team," Koeman added. "This is what I think has made the improvement of this team."

Gareth Southgate joked he is glad England's supporters were booing opposition players rather than their own after Virgil van Dijk was jeered during the Nations League semi-final.

Five days on from lifting the Champions League trophy with club side Liverpool, Netherlands centre-back Van Dijk was targeted by England's travelling fans every time he touched the ball in Thursday's match in Guimaraes.

But rather than join any condemnation of his side's supporters, Southgate feels it can be considered a positive that opposition players are being singled out instead of his own men, as was the case during a World Cup qualifier in Malta in 2017.

"I'm happier they're booing the opposition now than when they booed our players when we started," he said ahead of Sunday's third-place play-off against Switzerland.

"We're making progress. Driving through the streets of Malta... if Virgil has to take a bit, fair enough."

Defender Joe Gomez has questioned the mentality of those who picked on his Liverpool team-mate, however, as it had no positive impact on England.

Gomez, an unused substitute in his side's 3-1 extra-time defeat, said:  "I don't know where it was coming from. I hadn't see him do anything wrong. It doesn't pose much benefit for us as a team.

"We get on the ball and play the same way. I don't see the relevance with it. Maybe they were just following on. I don't think it affected us or the way we play as a team."

Virgil van Dijk said there was more for Netherlands to worry about than just Cristiano Ronaldo in their Nations League final against Portugal.

Netherlands booked their spot in the decider with a 3-1 extra-time win over England in Guimaraes on Thursday.

Van Dijk, considered one of the world's best defenders, and Ronaldo, arguably the best player on the planet, will go head to head in the final on Sunday.

But the Liverpool star said there was more to Portugal than just Ronaldo, who scored a hat-trick in their semi-final victory against Switzerland.

"We'll see. It's not only Cristiano Ronaldo we're going to face, we face a great Portugal. We will see what's going to happen," Van Dijk told reporters.

"I'm looking forward to playing this final with this team, and we're going to give everything that we can to hopefully hold that trophy in the end and do everyone proud."

While Ronaldo starred again against Switzerland, a Portugal teenager – Joao Felix – has generated plenty of buzz with his performances for Benfica.

Van Dijk said he expected Joao Felix, who is linked with a big-money move, to have a fine career.

"I watch football as well, I've seen the Europa League. Everyone has seen him. He's a big talent for them," he said.

"He has a bright future in front of him if he stays humble and keeps working hard and hopefully we can shut them down.

"Hopefully we are going to win."

Raheem Sterling will captain England on his 50th international appearance after Harry Kane was named on the bench for the Nations League Finals last-four clash against Netherlands.

Manchester City forward Sterling will enjoy the honour at Estadio D. Afonso Henrique, where the pitch passed an inspection following torrential afternoon rain in Guimaraes.

Virgil van Dijk starts at centre-back for Ronald Koeman's side, with Gareth Southgate taking a more cautious approach with the Champions League finalists in his squad.

Fellow Liverpool player Georginio Wijnaldum is included in the Netherlands' starting line-up, just five days after playing an hour of the 2-0 win over Tottenham.

Dele Alli, Jordan Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Eric Dier, Joe Gomez and Danny Rose all join Kane on the England bench.

Sterling, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford ensure the front three charged with breaking down Van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt possesses plenty of pace, while England's midfield trio of Declan Rice, Fabian Delph and Ross Barkley must deal with Barcelona-bound star Frenkie de Jong.

The winners will face Portugal in Sunday's final at Porto's Estadio do Dragao, with the losers back in Guimaraes to take on Switzerland in the third-place match.

Virgil van Dijk would be a worthy winner of the Ballon d'Or, according to Portugal defender Jose Fonte.

Liverpool centre-back Van Dijk collected the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) Player of the Year award in 2018-19 and concluded his club campaign by being named man of the match in the Reds' 2-0 Champions League final win over Tottenham last weekend.

The 27-year-old will return to action for his country on Thursday in the Nations League Finals, when Netherlands and England face off in Guimaraes for the right to take on Portugal in Sunday's final.

That would mean a reunion for two ex-Southampton colleagues at Estadio do Dragao and Fonte is not surprised at his former defensive partner's progress.

"I had many conversations with my international team-mates, including Cedric [Soares], I remember telling him, 'Listen, this guy I am sure he will be one of the best defenders in the world'," the 35-year-old said after Portugal saw off Switzerland 3-1 in Porto thanks to a stunning Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick.

"I am not surprised to see him disputing the Ballon d'Or this year, I am just pleased for him and I wish he keeps going like this."

Fabio Cannavaro was the last defender to win world football's most coveted individual prize in 2006 and Fonte feels the time is right for a master of his craft to be recognised once more - echoing sentiments expressed by Van Dijk's international boss Ronald Koeman.

"He was named Premier League player of the year, winning the Champions League, why not?" he said.

"We always give it to the strikers because they score goals and everything but it is about time a defender gets one, no?"

Fonte and Van Dijk played together for 18 months for Saints, with the Dutchman taking the captaincy when his colleague left for West Ham.

"It's not only me, everyone could see the pace he had, how strong he is – he wins every duel," Fonte explained.

"It was just about improving his positioning, and that is what he did when he came to Southampton. He stopped coming out with the ball too much, trying to dribble too much, playing simple."

Asked whether that meant he deserved some credit for Van Dijk's rise, the Lille defender chuckled and replied: "Ah, listen, I have a little bit of credit, but the main thing is him, he is an amazing talent."

Van Dijk has not been dribbled past in his previous 64 games for Liverpool – an incredible and now much-discussed statistic.

However, should Netherlands take on Portugal in Sunday's final, Fonte feels another amazing talent might test that stubbornness.

"It is an incredible stat, isn't it? It is not easy, but no-one is unbeatable," he added.

"If there is someone [who can beat Van Dijk], Cristiano is one of them."

Gareth Bale appears almost certain to leave Real Madrid this close season and his next move could be something of a surprise.

The star attacker has fallen out of favour at the Santiago Bernabeu and he has emerged as a reported target for Inter.

Antonio Conte is looking to rebuild the Serie A side and Bale would surely be the headline act in attack if he were to move to San Siro.

Inter have been linked with multiple players lately and there was also news on their pursuit of a striker.

 

TOP STORY – BALE WANTED AT INTER

A four-time Champions League winner with Madrid, Bale is wanted by Conte at Inter, according to El Chiringuito de Jugones.

Bale has already proven himself in the Premier League and LaLiga, and Serie A may yet be his next test.

Inter are also looking for a striker, but exchanging Mauro Icardi for Romelu Lukaku was rejected by Manchester United, according to Sky Sport Italia.

The club's first signing could be Granit Xhaka from Arsenal, with RSI reporting a possible move has accelerated since Conte was named coach.

 

ROUND-UP

- The move which seems certain is Eden Hazard's switch to Real Madrid. Jugones reports that a €100million deal has been agreed between the LaLiga giants and Chelsea.

- While Pep Guardiola has been mentioned, Maurizio Sarri is the most widely linked with the Juventus job, but Sky Sport Italia say the move has stalled as Chelsea demand the head coach's £5.3m release clause be met.

- Juventus are moving towards replacing the retired Andrea Barzagli by targeting Tottenham defender Davinson Sanchez, according to Don Balon.

- While Spurs may lose Madrid target Christian Eriksen, CalcioMercato report Tottenham are ready to bid €45m for Roma star Nicolo Zaniolo.

- It was announced Gianluigi Buffon would be leaving Paris Saint-Germain, but they already have a replacement lined up. Marca report conversations have already begun for PSG to sign Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

- Amid talk he could win the Ballon d'Or, Virgil van Dijk is ready to re-sign with Liverpool. The centre-back is contracted until 2023, but ESPN reports Van Dijk wants a new contract with the European champions.

Virgil van Dijk believes Harry Kane's lack of match fitness hindered him mentally during Liverpool's 2-0 Champions League final win over Tottenham.

Centre-back Van Dijk crowned a brilliant individual season by being named man of the match at the Wanda Metropolitano, where Kane was largely ineffective on his first appearance for almost two months following an ankle injury.

The pair could face off once again on Thursday, when the Netherlands take on England in their Nations League Finals semi-final in Guimaraes.

"Harry Kane is a fantastic striker, I think one of the best in England. And I think he's definitely the best striker England have for the national team," Van Dijk told a pre-match news conference.

"But I also know that if you're not 100 per cent fit, then it's going to be in your head if you get a little knock or you pass and you get a little bit of pain.

"It's going to be in your head, so obviously I expected him to play the final, but I knew he was not going to be 100 per cent.

"I don't know if he's playing tomorrow, but if he is, then we'll see how we're going to manage."

Speaking later on at his own briefing, England manager Gareth Southgate was not about to give an extensive public take on Kane's Champions League final showing.

"I don't think it's for me to comment on club performances in individual games because that then leads me into talking about other coaches and other players and they're not my team," he said.

"Of course I was at the game and wanted to see how it played out. A lot of the service that went into Harry, he wasn't favourite when it was arriving in his area."

In-demand Ajax star Matthijs de Ligt has let Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman in on his plans for what is expected to be a blockbusting close-season transfer.

The 19-year-old centre-back captained Ajax to a domestic double and the semi-finals of the Champions League in a superb 2018-19.

Barcelona, Manchester United, Liverpool, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain are among the clubs to be linked with De Ligt, who is set to line up for his country when Netherlands take on England in Thursday's Nations League Finals semi-final in Guimaraes.

Speaking at a pre-match news conference, Koeman told reporters he has an idea over what the youngster's next move will be but would not elaborate further.

"I spoke to Matthijs one week ago about his future and that's a secret," he said.

"I've always told all the young players who are thinking about making a step that the most important thing is keep playing, keep getting minutes to develop your football.

"Also, how the club is paying is a really important reason to make your choice. He and his family and his agent will make the best decision for the player."

Not that playing time is likely to be a problem wherever a phenomenal talent like De Ligt decides to ply his trade next.

"I think his big quality is that he's only 19. It sometimes looks like he already has the experience of a player of 25," former Barcelona defender Koeman continued.

"It was great that he had success in the Champions League, at the highest level, to compete against big, big clubs. That makes the development of young players.

"He's a great professional, he's really clever. He can improve, of course. That's normal for someone of 19.

"He can develop in his construction [of possession] from behind but he is a great player at this age and he will be better in some years.

"Let's hope he chooses for a big, big club. He deserves that."

In De Ligt and Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk – who Koeman this week tipped to be in Ballon d'Or contention – Netherlands have a centre-back pairing that could be the envy of world football for years to come.

"Virgil is doing great," said his national team boss after the defender joined up with his compatriots in possession of a Champions League winners' medal.

"It's all about winning big titles. That was, for him, the first step, the first big title.

"Let's hope that in the future he can win more and then really, for the youth in Holland, he is a big example."

Despite their exertions in Liverpool's 2-0 win over Tottenham at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday, Koeman suggested he is ready to start both Van Dijk and midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum against England and Estadio D Afonso Henriques.

"If you win, you are not tired," he added. "I have spoken with them and they say they feel good.

"If everything goes well in the last training session, we will play with our strongest team."

Virgil van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum received a warm welcome from their Netherlands team-mates after winning the Champions League with Liverpool.

The duo started as Liverpool overcame Tottenham 2-0 in the Champions League final in Madrid on Saturday.

And, they were warmly received by their international team-mates on Monday as Netherlands prepare for the Nations League Finals.

Van Dijk and Wijnaldum were applauded by the squad and staff, including coach Ronald Koeman, as they arrived in camp.

The players even broke into song for Wijnaldum, chanting about the midfielder.

Netherlands face England in the semi-finals in Guimaraes on Thursday before either playing a final or third-place play-off three days later.

Virgil van Dijk deserves to beat Lionel Messi to Ballon d'Or glory, according to Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman.

Dutch defensive colossus Van Dijk drove Liverpool to Champions League glory, making key contributions at both ends of the pitch in a run which culminated in Saturday's 2-0 win over Tottenham in Madrid.

And Koeman believes the former Celtic and Southampton man should be recognised for his inspirational role when football's top individual awards are handed out.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated the player prizes over the last decade, but Luka Modric disrupted that duopoly when his efforts for Croatia at last year's World Cup were recognised in December.

Koeman says Van Dijk would be a worthy successor as holder of the Ballon d'Or, even if he does not necessarily rate him as the world's finest player.

"He deserves to win the Ballon d'Or," Koeman said on Monday.

"It's usually handed to players who make or create decisive goals, but if there ever is a time to give it to a defender, it is now."

Koeman was speaking in a YouTube question and answer session organised by the Dutch football federation.

"In my opinion Messi is the best player," Koeman said, "but I also think you should win big trophies with your team to be a contestant."

Van Dijk played down his own chances of landing the award following the Tottenham game, saying that Messi "deserves it as long as he plays".

Messi can point to winning another LaLiga title with Barcelona, but the Catalans were beaten in the Copa del Rey final by Valencia and folded 4-0 at Anfield in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final, squandering their 3-0 Nou Camp advantage.

Koeman would love to field Van Dijk and fellow Liverpool man Georginio Wijnaldum in Thursday's UEFA Nations League semi-final against England.

Liverpool's post-Madrid celebrations took place on Sunday, leaving their players free to disperse for international duty.

Reds players could line up in opposition this week, with the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jordan Henderson among England's squad.

Ahead of the match in Portugal, Koeman said of Van Dijk and Wijnaldum: "On Tuesday we will drink a cup of coffee and we'll talk about it. But if it's only up to me, they'll play. That's obvious."

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