PREMIER LEAGUE

Baresi's words for Van Dijk akin to "praise from the king" says Klopp

Virgil van Dijk missed out to Leo Messi in the Ballon d'Or, but Jürgen Klopp was delighted to see the defender receive special praise.

Van Dijk 'crowned by the king' as Klopp hails Baresi praise for Liverpool star

Virgil van Dijk receiving praise from legendary AC Milan centre-back Franco Baresi, one of the greatest defenders in the history of the game, is like "being crowned by the king", Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp noted in this afternoon's press conference. Van Dijk narrowly finished second behind Lionel Messi in voting for the 2019 Ballon d'Or, with the centre-back one of four Liverpool players to be included in the top 10.

In Baresi's opinion, Van Dijk deserved to win the award, he tweeted that the Reds' centre-back was "the best" after Messi had claimed the Ballon d'Or for a record sixth time. Sadio Mané came in fourth, one place ahead of club team-mate Mohamed Salah, but received comforting words from the man who lifted the trophy, with Messi stating how it was a "shame" the Senegal forward finished outside the top three.

Virgil Van Dijk on target against Brighton & Hove Albion at Anfield

Mané just keeps getting better and better...

Klopp was thrilled to see his players gain recognition for a 2018-19 season that climaxed with them lifting the Champions League - and believes there is still even more to come from the "incredible" Mané, who appears to have raised his game another notch this season. The Senegalese forward has scored 13 goals and set up another seven so far this season and Klopp acknowleged that his performances have been exceptional.

"The first three in the Ballon d'Or were Messi, Van Dijk and Cristiano [Ronaldo], then Sadio. That is a nice row anyway, having two players there shows how we played a good season," Klopp told the media this afternoon. "Sadio is in incredible shape. Since the first day he came in, he's been an incredible player. I think I can remember his first goal, against Arsenal. He was running down the line, cutting inside and then, with the next step, with the left foot, into the far corner. I can still remember it, along with all his other goals since then. In each year he has made big steps. I saw after how Baresi was really positive about Van Dijk. He [Baresi] is one of the biggest defenders I can remember. That's like being crowned by the king. For an offensive player, that's like when Messi says something like this. Sadio, especially in the game against Barcelona at home, was quite impressive. If he stays healthy, he will have an incredible career. I think he can climb up, Ballon d'Or-wise. But other people make decisions, not even Lionel Messi can decide that."

Mané scores

Liverpool stars in Ballon d'Or ranking

Goalkeeper Alisson was seventh in the final Ballon d'Or results, while team-mates Roberto Firmino, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Georginio Wijnaldum finished inside the top 30.