Messi 'always' got Ballon d'Or vote from Bayern boss Kovac

The former Croatia coach is the latest to praise the Barcelona superstar after his display against Liverpool in the Champions League semi-finals

Bayern Munich boss Niko Kovac says he always voted for Lionel Messi to win the Ballon d'Or when he was Croatia head coach.

Messi produced another sparkling performance on Wednesday, scoring twice to give Barcelona a 3-0 Champions League semi-final first-leg win over Liverpool at Camp Nou and reach 600 club goals in the process.

His form in 2018-19 has made a mockery of his ranking in last year's race for the Ballon d'Or, when he came in fifth place behind Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Cristiano Ronaldo and winner Luka Modric.

But Kovac, who was Croatia coach between 2013 and 2015, insists he has never had any doubt about who is the best player in the world.

"There is only one Messi," he told a news conference on Friday ahead of Bayern Munich's Bundesliga clash with Hannover. 

"No matter what I say, it's too little. You have to shower him with superlatives.

"When it came to the Ballon d'Or choice, he always got my vote when I was the coach of the Croatian national team.

"There are many good players, but he is the best. A team is important, but he makes the difference."

Messi has won the Ballon d'Or five times in his career, the same number as Juventus forward Ronaldo.

The Argentine was expected to be challenged in 2019 by his eternal rival in Turin and Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk.

He was, however, put down a notable marker against the Dutchman on his most recent outing.

Van Dijk was unable to keep Messi quiet at Camp Nou, with the Netherlands international admitting after witnessing another European masterclass that he is "grateful" not to be part of Spanish football and forced to face the mercurial South American every season.