Much before the awards were announced, van Dijk was asked about the absence of Ronaldo in the ceremony.
“Cristiano won’t be here, so that’s already one rival less,” a reporter said, to which the Dutch defender replied with a smile: “Was he a rival then?”
Van Dijk took some criticism on social media for his comments on Ronaldo.
However, he later clarified he had utmost respect for both of them, and what he said at the ceremony was just a joke.
“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 to a comment from journalist Piers Morgan on Twitter.
Van Dijk, who won the UEFA Player for of the year, earlier this year, was one of the favourites to win the Ballon d’Or, apart from Lionel Messi. However, Messi pipped him to the second award this year after winning the FIFA Best Player of the Year award, also by beating van Dijk.
“It was an amazing year, but there’s a couple of players like that who are a bit unnatural,” Van Dijk said of Messi and Ronaldo after the awards were announced. “So you need to respect greatness as well. I was close, but there was just someone a little bit better.
“I’m very proud of what I achieved last year with Liverpool and Holland, and hopefully we can do that again this year. But that will be tough with those guys around here still.”
Among the other award winners on the night were- Megan Rapinoe, who won the Women’s Ballon d’Or and Mathijs de Ligt and Alisson Becker won the Kopa award and the Yachine trophy respectively.