Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk jokingly questioned whether Cristiano Ronaldo was one of his rivals to win the 2019 Ballon d’Or at the ceremony in Paris on Monday evening.
Lionel Messi was crowned the winner of the 2019 Ballon d’Or, claiming the coveted prize for the sixth time in his career.
The Barcelona superstar, widely considered the greatest player of all time, pipped Van Dijk to the award at a ceremony in Paris.
The Netherlands captain was asked on the red carpet what he made of Ronaldo’s absence from the event, and he replied by questioning whether the Portuguese was truly in the race to win.
When asked what it would be like having one of his rivals not show up, the 28-year-old responded: “Was he a rival then?”
It is believed Ronaldo attended the annual Italian football awards in Milan instead of the Ballon d’Or event.
The 34-year-old striker, who has won the individual honour five times, was there to pick up his trophy for winning the Italian Football Association’s Footballer of the Year for 2019, after winning Serie A in his first season in Italy.
Messi regains his place as the most decorated player in the history of the Ballon d’Or, moving one clear of Ronaldo.
Luka Modric’s triumph last year broke Messi and Ronaldo’s ten year duopoly of the trophy, which returns to the Argentine’s hands for the first time since 2015.
It caps off a wonderful calendar year for Messi, who also claimed the Best FIFA Men’s award back in September.
The 32-year-old scored 54 times for club and country during the 2018/19 campaign as Barcelona won the La Liga title.