Virgil van Dijk has insisted he has “only got respect” for Cristiano Ronaldo despite appearing to troll the Juventus star at the Ballon d’Or awards on Monday night.
Liverpool defender Van Dijk was pipped to the top individual award in men’s football by Lionel Messi, who won the accolade for a record sixth time in Paris.
But one man Van Dijk did finish ahead of the in the poll was Ronaldo, who finished third in the poll and snubbed the glitzy ceremony in favor of attending the Serie A awards.
Van Dijk couldn’t resist a pop at the Portuguese ace on the red carpet outside the Theatre du Chatelet in the French capital.
Noting that Ronaldo was absent, a Dutch journalist asked Van Dijk: “Cristiano won’t be here, so that’s already one rival less.”
“Was he a rival then?” the defender answered with a smile.
The jibe promptly went viral, being seized upon by Ronaldo’s biggest fanboy, UK TV personality Piers Morgan.
“No, Cristiano is a far greater player, you’re not in his league,” Morgan tweeted.
No.. @Cristiano is a far greater player, you’re not in his league. https://t.co/MjaZwaq16b
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) December 2, 2019
But Van Dijk, 28, responded directly to Morgan via the same medium, insisting he had meant no disrespect toward the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
“Hi Piers, If you don’t jump on the social media bandwagon and would listen to the whole interview then you would know I made a joke, and only got respect for those 2,” he replied.
Hi Piers, If you don’t jump on the social media bandwagon and would listen to the whole interview then you would know I made a joke, and only got respect for those 2 😀
— Virgil van Dijk (@VirgilvDijk) December 2, 2019
Morgan seemed to take it well, responding: “Good tackle, Virgil.. as I would expect.”
WATCH: Camera captures adorable reaction of Messi’s 4yo son Mateo as his dad wins Ballon d’Or for record 6th time
Inside the gilded surroundings of the Theatre du Chatelet, Champions League winner Van Dijk was effusive in his praise for Messi, saying: “Look, six times the Ballon d’Or, we need to respect greatness as well. I was close but there was just someone a little bit better.”
While Messi, 32, walked off with a record sixth Ballon d’Or on Monday night, Ronaldo instead decided to attend the Serie A awards in Milan, perhaps having gotten wind that he was out of the running.
Ronaldo was crowned Serie A Player of the Year and also Forward of the Year, having notched 26 goals in his first season in Italy as Juve picked up an eighth consecutive Scudetto.
Посмотреть эту публикацию в Instagram
The 34-year-old star’s presence in Milan was not without controversy, however, as he reportedly stayed in his car until the moment the award was announced.
Despite the Serie A accolades to add to his collection, it will have been a galling sight for Ronaldo as Messi edged ahead in the Ballon d’Or stakes as the pair battle it out for the status of the greatest of their generation.