Liverpool FC is the best-represented club among the 2019 Ballon d’Or nominees, with seven names among the 30-man shortlist for the award.
Their players will have been looked upon favorably after they won the Champions League in 2019, a triumph which rewarded the remarkable progress they have made since the arrival of head coach Jürgen Klopp in October 2015.
This continental competition is considered one of the biggest prizes in soccer, and is arguably the closest club soccer gets to the World Cup, given that the game’s best talent tends to ply its trade in Europe.
Winning one of these high profile tournaments can have a big say on whether a player is nominated for individual accolades, and also who wins them.
In 2018 Luka Modric was awarded the trophy on the back of his performances in the World Cup in Russia where Croatia reached the final, and his contributions with Real Madrid as they won that year’s Champions League final.
If the award simply went to the best player in the world, Lionel Messi would probably walk away with the prize year after year, but the success of the teams in which the nominees play also seems to be taken into account.
For Liverpool to have so many players up for the award is testament to the quality of the team assembled by Klopp and sporting director Michael Edwards.
They have signed some of the best players in the world, but they have rarely broken the bank to do so, at least when compared to other clubs with ambitions to win the Champions League. The exceptions to this, when it comes to the players nominated, are Alisson and Virgil van Dijk.
Before Harry Maguire joined Manchester United for $97 million this summer, Van Dijk was the most expensive defender in the world. He joined Liverpool from Southampton for $94 million in January 2018, but though the size of the fee was questioned at the time, he has gone on to prove his worth.
Not only is Van Dijk on the shortlist, but he is also one of the favorites to win the Ballon d’Or.
Along with Alisson, who at $70 million was the most expensive goalkeeper in the world for less than a month before Chelsea signed Kepa Arrizabalaga, Van Dijk transformed the Liverpool defense and is now widely considered as the best center-back in the world.
Liverpool boasted one of the best defenses around during the previous season, demonstrating that they were absolutely right to shell out big money to solve one of their biggest problems.
Once you get past these colossi in their defense (which few have managed to do), the other five Liverpool players nominated for the 2019 Ballon d’Or barely register on the list of soccer’s most expensive transfers.
Mohamed Salah, one of the closest to Messi in style, and quite often in substance, comes in at 96 on the list of the most expensive transfer fees according to Transfermarkt, while Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Georginio Wijnaldum don’t feature in the top 100. Van Dijk is 17th on that list, while Alisson is 42nd.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, meanwhile, is a product of the club’s youth academy, showing that the right investment and coaching can still produce talented home-grown, club-trained players.
The only other players on the Ballon d’Or shortlist who have been trained as youth players by their current clubs are Messi and Ajax’s Donny van de Beek.
Liverpool Ballon d’Or nominees and their transfer fees
- Alisson Becker – $70 million
- Virgil van Dijk – $94 million
- Trent Alexander-Arnold – N/A (youth product)
- Georginio Wijnaldum – $31 million
- Mohamed Salah – $47 million
- Sadio Mané – $46 million
- Roberto Firmino – $46 million
This shows how good Liverpool has been at improving players under Klopp’s watch, and also how good they are at signing players on the cusp of greatness.
This will make the club a desirable destination for the best players from across the world, but if they only have individual accolades in mind, then it’s unlikely Liverpool will sign them.
“At Liverpool we had a team that all helped each other,” said legendary Liverpool boss Bill Shankly in the 1970s.
“By playing collectively, they got individual honours.”
It’s as true now as it was then, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one of these modern greats claim the 2019 Ballon d’Or.