Liverpool star and Ballon d’Or 2019 runners-up Virgil van Dijk, on Monday, joked about Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence from the award ceremony and said that he was not aware that the Juventus player was in contention to win the coveted prize.

Van Dijk, who was on the line to become the first defender to win Ballon d’Or since 2006, was asked what did he think about Ronaldo, who finished third, for not showing up.

To which, the 28-year-old jokingly said, “Why, was he a candidate to win?”

Argentine superstar Lionel Messi bagged his sixth Ballon d’Or, on Monday, with his long-time rival Ronaldo notably skipping the event to attend the Gran Gala awards in Milan where he won the Serie A Most Valuable Player (MVP) for 2018-19.

Further speaking, Van Dijk congratulated and paid respect to Messi before taking pride on his performance last season for both club and country.

“It was amazing. Unfortunately, there are a couple of players like him that are a bit unnatural, I think. They’re fantastic. Six-time Ballon d’Or [winner], you need to respect greatness as well. I was close but there was just someone a little bit better,” the Liverpool defender was quoted as saying by Goal.com.

“I’m very proud of what I achieved last year with Liverpool, Holland and hopefully we can do that again this year. It’s going to be tough as long as these guys are around still,” the 28-year-old added.

31-year-old Messi won his first Ballon d’Or since 2015 and now has one more than Ronaldo (5). The Barcelona forward had won the trophy for four consecutive years between 2009 and 2012.

Messi had finished fifth in last year’s Ballon d’Or but turned the tide in his favour within a year. He scored 40 goals alongside 17 assists in the past 12 months.