Ruud Gullit believes Virgil van Dijk must "be better" if he is to make the shortlist for the 2019 Ballon d'Or.
Virgil van Dijk must "be better" for Netherlands if he is to win the Ballon d'Or, according to Ruud Gullit. Gullit has called for the Liverpool defender to help cut out the errors that have dogged Ronald Koeman's team.
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After winning the Champions League with Liverpool, Van Dijk helped his country reach the Nations League final, where they were beaten 1-0 by Portugal, and Koeman received widespread plaudits for turning the Oranje's fortunes around following their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. But Gullit, who won the Ballon d'Or in 1987 ahead of the Netherlands' triumph at the 1988 European Championship, called for Van Dijk to inspire improvement in the Dutch defence.
Speaking about Van Dijk at the Costa Smeralda Invitational golf event, Gullit said: "I think he did really, really well, especially with Liverpool. I think that he was the missing link for them. For the national team I still think he needs to be better than that. Not him only, but also [Matthijs] De Ligt because out of the last 14 games, 10 games we've been 1-0 down. If you have such a good defence you don't need to concede these goals all the time."
Van Dijk won the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) Players' Player of the Year award for his outstanding performances for Liverpool throughout 2018-19, and he is widely considered to be a contender for the 2019 Ballon d'Or.
Gullit underlined the difficulty defensive players have in winning world football's most coveted individual prize, pointing out that his former AC Milan team-mate and Italy great Franco Baresi did not collect the award during his career. The last defender to win it was former Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 - just months after he lifted the World Cup in Germany and Gullit feels the whole Netherlands team would need to step up to help Van Dijk fulfil his potential.
Disappointing result last night but we should be proud as a group for how far we’ve come in a short space of time together. There’s bigger and better things ahead for this team. Congratulations to Portugal #DutchLions pic.twitter.com/8S3soraasv— Virgil van Dijk (@VirgilvDijk) June 10, 2019
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"It has to do with the whole team of course," said Gullit. "It is something that he has to fix. Not he himself but the whole defence, with the whole team, in order to be that player. Of course, defenders have not been picked a lot. Baresi should have been picked but never was. So therefore it would be a huge boost for him if he gets picked."