Ashley Cole hopes the day will come when a defender wins the Ballon d'Or again but admits it is hard to envisage in the era of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Messi this year won a record sixth Ballon d'Or – edging him ahead of the five awards Ronaldo holds – when he saw off competition from Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk.

Dutchman Van Dijk has been inspirational for the Reds since he joined from Southampton midway through 2017-18, and he played a key role in their Champions League success last season.

Former England left-back Cole would have liked to see a fellow defender win the coveted trophy - awarded to the world's top player - for the first time since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.

However, he believes Barcelona's Messi and Juventus forward Ronaldo remain clearly the best players in world football.

"It's tough," Cole told Omnisport. "You want different positions maybe being credited with how good they've played in that season, but to be honest I don't think you can look outside of Messi and Ronaldo.

"What Messi does week in, week out is not normal. Again, the same with Ronaldo. It wasn't a surprise that Messi won it but one day, yeah, we probably would like a defender to win it."

One left-back who has impressed Cole in the Premier League this season is Ben Chilwell, who has been in fine form for high-flying Leicester City.

"I think, for me, him and [Liverpool's Andy] Robertson are the best two left-backs in the Premier League at the minute," Cole said, speaking on behalf of Nissan.

Chilwell looks set to become the regular starter for England heading into Euro 2020.

"He's playing in a good Leicester team, suiting his game at the minute where he can attack and he's got protection behind him," Cole said.

"Whether he starts for England? That's probably a question for Gareth [Southgate]. I'd like to see him start because I think when he has played for England he's played very well.

"He looks accomplished there. I'd like to see him start but that's down to the manager."

Nissan are proud partners of the UEFA Champions League. UEFA ambassador Ashley Cole was at the Chelsea FC v LOSC Lille match on Tuesday 10th December, along with the UEFA Champions League Trophy, which is being driven around the UK by the next generation Nissan Juke.

Liverpool forward Sadio Mane set his sights on winning the Ballon d'Or after finishing fourth in the voting in 2019.

Barcelona captain Lionel Messi claimed the award for a record sixth time at Monday's ceremony in Paris.

Mane's club team-mate Virgil van Dijk was named runner-up and Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo ranked third, some 210 points behind his Argentine rival.

Mane was further back but the Senegal international suggested more success with European champions Liverpool could help him compete for France Football's prestigious prize.

The Reds, now a force at home and abroad, had four players in the top 10 and six in the top 20.

"That means we are a great team with great players and great quality," Mane told his club's website.

"The boys still have a lot to show and hopefully this season we can show it.

"I am very proud and happy to be named fourth in the world. I am looking forward and why not number one, maybe?

"I will do everything possible to win the Champions League and Premier League with Liverpool and we'll see what's going to happen."

Messi himself said it was a "shame" Mane had not finished higher in the aftermath of a 22-goal Premier League campaign.

The 27-year-old bounced back by starring in the 5-2 trouncing of Everton in the Merseyside derby and could start again when the leaders visit Bournemouth on Saturday.

"I think tiredness is in the head. I'm ready to go - I'm feeling fresh again," he said.

"I expect [to be rested at some point], but when they put me on the bench I respect it and I will be here to push my team-mates because we are Liverpool. 

"Wednesday was a good example with Bobby [Firmino] and Mo [Salah], it meant that other players can get the job. I'm just here and whatever they decide, I am ready to go."

Ernesto Valverde is not concerned about Lionel Messi retiring anytime soon after the Barcelona star suggested he was beginning to think about bringing his playing days to a close when he received a record sixth Ballon d'Or.

Messi, 32, overtook long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo in the Ballon d'Or stakes on Monday when he beat the Portugal forward and Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk to the individual gong, despite the latter being many people's favourite.

During Messi's acceptance speech, he remarked that he is "aware of how old I am, everything happens very quickly and I know that the moment of withdrawal is approaching".

Barca team-mate Luis Suarez insisted Messi's comments had been misinterpreted by many, adamant the Argentina great will "continue for a long while yet".

And Valverde says he sees Messi's state of mind as entirely normal, convinced his comments have been blown out of proportion.

Speaking ahead of Saturday's visit of Real Mallorca, Valverde said: "It seems natural [to think about retirement]. It seems normal.

"Leo is 32 years old and, although I don't think he is thinking about retirement, it is something that is there [in the future].

"When a player goes over 30 [years old], he always sees the end closer than when he starts, but come on, I think it goes around too much.

"You have to see it naturally. It happens to everyone as the years go by. To think about it doesn't mean it's going to be in three days."

The privilege of coaching Messi is not lost on Valverde, though he expects the honour to become even more apparent in the future.

"One is aware of that, but sometimes the day-by-day does not let you enjoy it at all," Valverde said.

"I think they are things that are valued more over time. I am aware that I have the great fortune to be able to say in a time that I have trained Leo.

"In the same way that the elders talk about [Real Madrid great Alfredo] Di Stefano, we can tell those who come after we were in Messi's time and we enjoyed it, some as close as me."

Jurgen Klopp described Virgil van Dijk receiving praise from Franco Baresi as like "being crowned by the king" after the defender led Liverpool's strong representation in this year's Ballon d'Or list.

Van Dijk narrowly finished second behind Lionel Messi in voting for the 2019 award, with the centre-back one of four Reds to be included inside the top 10.

Yet the Dutchman deserved to scoop the individual honour, according to the legendary Baresi, with the former Italy and AC Milan star stating Van Dijk was "the best" when quote-tweeting a picture of the newly-crowned winner.

Sadio Mane came in fourth, one spot ahead of 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.

Klopp was delighted to see his players acknowledged 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" Mane, who played such a pivotal role in helping Liverpool overcome a first-leg deficit to knock Barcelona out at the semi-final stage.

"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.

"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."

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.

Liverpool star Sadio Mane deserved to at least finish in the top three for the Ballon d'Or, according to Senegal team-mate Idrissa Gueye.

As Lionel Messi claimed a record sixth Ballon d'Or on Monday, Mane finished fourth behind the Barcelona forward, Liverpool team-mate Virgil van Dijk and Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo.

Paris Saint-Germain and Senegal midfielder Gueye believes Mane deserved more after his stellar year.

"He deserved to be on the podium," Gueye said after PSG's 2-0 Ligue 1 win over Nantes on Wednesday.

"For me, he deserved the Ballon d'Or or at least the podium. Unfortunately, he is fourth and that's a shame. I feel sad for him.

"It is a source of pride for all of Senegal. With what he did last season, he really deserved better."

Mane again showed his class for Liverpool on Wednesday, scoring once and providing two assists in a 5-2 Merseyside derby win over Everton at Anfield.

The 27-year-old has scored 13 goals and provided four assists in 21 games in all competitions this season.

Sadio Mane would have won the Ballon d'Or if he was European or Brazilian, according to the Liverpool forward's Senegal team-mate Cheikhou Kouyate.

Mane came fourth in the final standings with 347 votes from the panel of world football journalists, behind winner Lionel Messi (686 votes) of Barcelona, Liverpool team-mate Virgil van Dijk (679) and Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo (476).

As well as helping his team to Champions League glory in June, Mane has continually excelled in domestic action for the Premier League's runaway leaders and Kouyate, who was part of the Palace team that lost 2-1 to Mane's Liverpool in November, suggested the 27-year-old was overlooked due to an anti-African bias.

"For me this Ballon d'Or is for Sadio Mane, there is no doubt about that," Kouyate told The Mirror.

"Listen, if Sadio was a Brazilian or a European there would not have been no debate.

"It would have been him for the award straight away and it's not because I play with him at international level, or because I know him; it's just what people who watch football feel.

"Just go back and watch what he did for both club and country and you will see in between the lines that no one has been better than him."

Mane was instrumental in Senegal's run to the final of the Africa Cup of Nations, scoring three goals in five appearances before they were beaten 1-0 by Algeria at the last hurdle.

Kouyate added: "We all know that Messi is really good, maybe the greatest player, but last season, come on.

"Maybe it's not just football that they look at because there is no way three people had a better season than him [Mane].

"It's just unbelievable how some people are judged but that is not fair."

 

Cristiano Ronaldo is "coming back stronger than before", according to Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici, who scoffed at suggestions the veteran forward is "finished" after missing out on the Ballon d'Or.

Ronaldo opted not to attend the Ballon d'Or ceremony in Paris, where Lionel Messi collected the top prize for the sixth time, choosing instead to appear at the Gran Gala del Calcio in Milan, where the Juve star picked up awards for his achievements in Serie A.

Paratici was asked whether Ronaldo's recent form is a sign the 34-year-old's powers are in decline, following a run of one goal in his past five games for the Bianconeri.

The Juve chief dismissed the suggestion, telling Tuttosport: "Cristiano finished? Don't make me laugh.

"Ronaldo had a knee problem that didn't allow him to perform at his best, but now he's coming back stronger than before."

On the Ballon d'Or, Paratici added: "For me, Ronaldo also deserved it last season, where he scored [13] goals in the Champions League, many of which were decisive.

"Ronaldo also deserved the Ballon d'Or this season. He is a competitive animal. We have made a good investment with him, he has improved all of us.

"We must accept his hunger, it is what distinguishes him from others. Will he remain with Juventus? Of course."

Paratici also took the opportunity to lavish praise on Matthijs de Ligt after he won the Kopa trophy, awarded to the best player under the age of 21.

De Ligt joined Juventus in July in a €75million move from Ajax, and Paratici dubbed the deal one of the club's best.

"The more I see of him, the more I think he is a monster. He's in another category," Paratici said.

"Do you realise what it means to be a starter at a big club at 20 years old? He was immediately thrown into the fray because of the injury to [Giorgio] Chiellini. He immediately took on great responsibilities, it's crazy.

"He's our best young purchase. He will define an era, I'm sure of it."

Megan Rapinoe has urged Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, as well as other leading male superstars, to be more outspoken on social issues including racism and sexism.

United States international Rapinoe won the women's Ballon d'Or this week, joining Messi on the stage at the annual awards gala as the Barcelona great claimed the men's prize for a record sixth time, one more than rival Ronaldo.

But Rapinoe, who has long been vociferous in her opposition to discrimination, does not believe her male counterparts are doing enough.

"I want to shout, 'Cristiano, Leo, Zlatan [Ibrahimovic], help me'," she told France Football. "These big stars do not engage in anything when there are so many problems in men's football.

"Do they have the fear of losing everything? They believe that but it's not true.

"Who would scratch Messi or Ronaldo's names from the world of football for a statement against racism or sexism?"

Rapinoe suggested recognition of her individual achievements was in part due to the way she has been open to discussing key topics.

"This Ballon d'Or rewards both," she said. "On the one hand, I am a very good footballer. On the other hand, my activism attracts support.

"People understand that I act to find solutions to the problems in our society. The idea is to empower others to speak loudly."

Lionel Messi beat Virgil van Dijk to the 2019 Ballon d'Or by a slender seven-point margin, the award's organisers have confirmed.

France Football declared Messi's record sixth victory to be among the narrowest in the 63-year history of the prestigious prize.

The Barcelona captain finished top of the count with 686 points, just ahead of Liverpool defender Van Dijk's 679.

Third-placed Cristiano Ronaldo, who did not attend Monday's ceremony, tallied 476 points, 210 fewer than long-time rival Messi.

Sadio Mane, fourth on 347 points, was the only other player to exceed the 200-mark.

"The history of the award has had tighter scores, but the number of voting journalists - 176 this year - was [in the past] much smaller," read a post on France Football's website.

Runner-up Van Dijk praised Messi's "unnatural" ability and said he had complete respect for the 32-year-old.

When asked about five-time winner Ronaldo's absence, he joked: "Was he a candidate?"

Ronaldo's sister, singer Katia Aveiro, failed to see the funny side of the light-hearted comment, firing back at the Dutchman in a lengthy Instagram rant.

"Now, dear Virgil, where you are going, Cristiano Ronaldo has gone and has come a thousand times," she wrote.

"You see, my dear Virgil, that Cristiano Ronaldo was a three-time champion in the country where you have been playing for years and you still haven't got your hand on the trophy.

"Cristiano Ronaldo was even the best player and best scorer in the country where you play Virgil. By the way, he was even younger than you. Then, dear Virgil, Cristiano Ronaldo went to other places and became the greatest player in the history of a club... this club, with this Cristiano guy, even beat you in the Champions League final.

"Of these [Ballons d'Or], Ronaldo already has five, Virgil."

2019 Ballon d'Or points

1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) - 686
2. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool) - 679
3. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus) - 476
4. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) - 347
5. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) - 178
6. Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain) - 89
7. Alisson (Liverpool) - 67
8. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) - 44
9. Bernardo Silva (Manchester City) - 41
10. Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City) - 33

Matthijs de Ligt set his sights on team success with Juventus after claiming a prestigious individual prize at the Ballon d'Or ceremony on Monday.

The Netherlands international was named the 2019 winner of the Kopa Trophy, given annually to the best player in the world aged under 21.

De Ligt described the award as an "honour" and hoped it would not be his last taste of silverware for the season.

Juve, the club he joined from Ajax in July, have long harboured ambitions to win the Champions League and are locked in a Serie A title race with Antonio Conte's Inter.

"Inter will be a difficult challenge because they are a great team with great players," De Ligt told reporters in Paris.

"But the season is long and for us it is all about winning.

"In the league or in the cup? I don't make distinctions, it's all important. We want to win everything.

"At Juve there are world-class defenders who will help me grow and become even stronger."

De Ligt was part of the Juve side that drew 2-2 at home to Sassuolo over the weekend, which allowed Inter to take a one-point lead at the top.

The Bianconeri will look to bounce back away to in-form Lazio on Saturday.

Barcelona star Lionel Messi believes his record of six Ballon d'Or awards will be broken.

Messi, 32, claimed the prize for a sixth time in Paris on Monday, beating Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo.

While only Ronaldo has also won the award at least five times, Messi feels someone can get more than six.

"I think so. I don't know who but it's possible," he told reporters.

"Records are made to be beaten, but I don't know who or when. But at the moment I hold the record and I'm very happy."

Messi won his first Ballon d'Or in 2009 before his dominance led to him claiming the prize in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and this year.

The Argentina international said: "It was unimaginable to win one, let alone six.

"It's a joy to get six, it's very nice the recognition from others and it makes me proud."

Giorgio Chiellini was happy for Lionel Messi to win this year's Ballon d'Or, but the Juventus defender blasted the "theft" that meant Cristiano Ronaldo missed out in 2018.

Barcelona star Messi claimed the prize for a record sixth time on Monday, beating Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and Ronaldo.

It came a year after Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric ended the 10-year dominance of Messi and Ronaldo, but it was that decision that upset Chiellini.

"It's OK the Ballon d'Or for Messi this year," the Juve captain told Sky Sport Italia at the Gran Gala del Calcio awards in Milan on Monday.

"The real theft was last year. Real Madrid decided that Cristiano should not win the Ballon d'Or. It was really strange."

Chiellini added: "Real didn't want him to win because he was no longer one of their players."

Ronaldo joined Juventus from Madrid in July last year, and was on Monday named the Serie A player of the year for 2018-19.

Juve and Ronaldo are yet to get to their best this season, now sitting a point adrift of leaders Inter through 14 Serie A games.

"I said that the real Juve will be seen at least from January. We need time," Chiellini said.

"We started very well with a great month and a half, then we suffered a bit of physiological decline, but the results weren't missed.

"Without the draw against Sassuolo [on Sunday], we would talk about super Juve."

Megan Rapinoe has added another award to her collection after the United States star beat Lucy Bronze and Alex Morgan to win the Ballon d'Or Feminin.

The 34-year-old became a World Cup winner for the second time in July, claiming both the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot in France as her six goals helped Jill Ellis' team retain their trophy.

That led to Rapinoe being named The Best FIFA Women's Player in September and she has now succeeded Ada Hegerberg by winning the second ever Ballon d'Or Feminin.

England and Lyon right-back Bronze finished second in the voting while Rapinoe's USA team-mate Morgan was third.

Rapinoe was not at the ceremony in Paris on Monday, but said she was shocked to be the winning the award.

"It's a bummer [not to be there]," she said.

"I congratulate all the nominees. I can't believe I'm the one winning it.

"I want to thank my team-mates, my coaches, my federation, to allow me to be the person who I am on the field and off the field.

"Thank you to my beautiful girlfriend Sue. I'm so sorry I can't be there, I know it's going to be insane but I'll do my best to get there next year."

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson has said he is "honoured" to have written his name in football history after being awarded the Yachine Trophy at the 2019 Ballon d'Or ceremony in Paris.

The Brazil international capped a memorable year for club and country by becoming the first person to win the accolade, given to the best keeper in the world over the past 12 months.

He won the Champions League with Liverpool in June and the Copa America with Brazil the following month, while also claiming the Golden Glove in the Premier League last season with 21 clean sheets.

Having seen off competition from Barcelona's Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Ederson of Manchester City to come out on top, Alisson was quick to thank his team-mates for their help.

"I'm so honoured to win this prize," he told reporters. "I believe that, beyond receiving this trophy, there's the fact of being the first one in the history. 

"I guess I wrote my name in football history. Not only me but with the help of God, my family, my team-mates - this is always very important to say. I'm so honoured to be here tonight along with great players."

Alisson ranked seventh in the main Ballon d'Or award, which was won by Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi for a record sixth time.

Page 1 of 4
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.