Virgil van Dijk deserves to beat Lionel Messi to Ballon d'Or glory, according to Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman.
Dutch defensive colossus Van Dijk drove Liverpool to Champions League glory, making key contributions at both ends of the pitch in a run which culminated in Saturday's 2-0 win over Tottenham in Madrid.
And Koeman believes the former Celtic and Southampton man should be recognised for his inspirational role when football's top individual awards are handed out.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated the player prizes over the last decade, but Luka Modric disrupted that duopoly when his efforts for Croatia at last year's World Cup were recognised in December.
Koeman says Van Dijk would be a worthy successor as holder of the Ballon d'Or, even if he does not necessarily rate him as the world's finest player.
"He deserves to win the Ballon d'Or," Koeman said on Monday.
"It's usually handed to players who make or create decisive goals, but if there ever is a time to give it to a defender, it is now."
Koeman was speaking in a YouTube question and answer session organised by the Dutch football federation.
"In my opinion Messi is the best player," Koeman said, "but I also think you should win big trophies with your team to be a contestant."
Van Dijk played down his own chances of landing the award following the Tottenham game, saying that Messi "deserves it as long as he plays".
Messi can point to winning another La Liga title with Barcelona, but the Catalans were beaten in the Copa del Rey final by Valencia and folded 4-0 at Anfield in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final, squandering their 3-0 Camp Nou advantage.
Koeman would love to field Van Dijk and fellow Liverpool man Georginio Wijnaldum in Thursday's UEFA Nations League semi-final against England.
Liverpool's post-Madrid celebrations took place on Sunday, leaving their players free to disperse for international duty.
Reds players could line up in opposition this week, with the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jordan Henderson among England's squad.
Ahead of the match in Portugal, Koeman said of Van Dijk and Wijnaldum: "On Tuesday we will drink a cup of coffee and we'll talk about it. But if it's only up to me, they'll play. That's obvious."