Will a Liverpool player win the Ballon d’Or? Here’s what Jose Mourinho had to say…
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo saw their decade-long hold over the accolade for the world’s best player come to an end last year, when Croatia and Real Madrid playmaker Luka Modric won the award.
And while we are not yet mid-way through this year, discussion is already hotting up over who should be in contention – especially in light of Liverpool’s Champions League win over Tottenham in Madrid on Saturday.
Mourinho said that Reds trio Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane are key names – but that Champions League glory alone was not necessarily enough to claim football's most coveted individual prize.
“The World Cups and the Champions Leagues and the Euros, they are the ones that have something to say about it,” Mourinho said.
“But Cristiano [Ronaldo] was only Italian champion, [Lionel] Messi was only Spanish champion.
“Liverpool, European champions, but not champions domestically.
He singled out Liverpool defensive colossus Van Dijk as a key contender, especially if the Dutchman can help drive his team to UEFA Nations League glory, first when they play England in the semifinal this Thursday in Portugal.
“I think Van Dijk, why not a defender? But didn’t win the Premier League, in spite of [the fact that] he was considered the best player.
"But if Holland manages to go Portugal [in the Nations League] and win a trophy, a small trophy but a trophy, that can play [a role in deciding the Ballon d’Or]."
Liverpool teammates Salah and Mane are in a similar situation as they pepare for the Africa Cup of Nations this month, while Messi will play at the Copa America.
Salah netted 22 times in the Premier League and five times in the Champions League last season, while Mane also bagged 22 goals in the league and four in Europe.
Those stats were behind Argentina ace Messi, however, who scored 53 goals across all competitions, including 12 in the Champions League.
“Messi and Argentina with the [Copa] America cup, Salah and Mane in the African cup [of Nations].
“I think Salah was better last season than this season, but a European champion. Mane, fantastic all season and a European champion, and I think Senegal is qualified for the final phrase.
“I would go a little bit around this,” Mourinho added.Also on rt.com Jose Mourinho names his Champions League team of the season – with some BIG absentees
Mourinho ruled out other stars such as PSG duo Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
“Neymar this season was not good enough with his injury, Mbappe, fantastic season but bad Champions League and France didn’t reach [the Nations League finals].
“So I would be around Van Dijk, Salah, Mane, Messi. I would go around these,” he concluded.
Liverpool stars Salah and Mane are expected to line up for Egypt and Senegal respectively when the African Cup of Nations kicks off in Egypt on June 21.
Meanwhile, Van Dijk is preparing to face England in the inaugural UEFA League of Nations semifinal on Thursday – less than a week after sealing Champions League glory with Liverpool.
Messi is seeking to guide Argentina to an elusive major title when he captains the team at the Copa America in Brazil, which gets underway on June 15.
You can get all of Mourinho's expert insight into the Champions League final and more in the latest episode 'On the Touchline with Jose Mourinho' here: