​Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has admitted he is honoured to have finished second in the race for the Ballon d'Or on Monday.

The Dutchman was many people's favourite to take home the award, but it was ultimately handed to Barcelona's Lionel Messi for the sixth time in his career.

Lionel Messi

Speaking after the event (via ​Sky Sports), Van Dijk insisted there was no shame to losing to someone like ​Messi, and he vowed to be back fighting for the award next year as well.

"It was an amazing year, but there's a couple of players like [Messi and ​Cristiano Ronaldo] who are a bit unnatural," he said. "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 the Netherlands, and hopefully we can do that again this year. But that will be tough with those guys around here still.

"I never thought that I would be up for a Ballon d'Or until I was actually nominated. It shows a lot about how my career has been. My career has been different from the winner here, I came late, but I never gave up on my dreams. I had to work hard every step of the way, so to be here makes me very proud. And I want to work hard and be here again next year."

Ahead of the ceremony, Van Dijk was asked about Ronaldo, who decided not to attend the event. It was suggested to him that that meant there was one less 'rival' to compete with.

"Was Cristiano really a rival?" Van Dijk joked, as reported by the ​Liverpool Echo.

Cristiano Ronaldo,Virgil van Dijk

TV presenter Piers Morgan seemingly didn't see the funny side of things, taking to ​Twitter to write: "No... Cristiano is a far greater player, you're not in his league."

Fortunately, Van Dijk was not interested in any misinterpreted drama, instead telling Morgan to actually listen to his entire interview instead of just overreacting to 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 responded on ​Twitter.

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