Nations League Final: Van Dijk and Ronaldo clash after stunning seasons

By Dom Farrell 9 June 2019 3309
Nations League Final: Van Dijk and Ronaldo clash after stunning seasons

The outcome of an anticipated titanic battle between Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk is likely to have a huge say in whether Portugal or Netherlands win the inaugural Nations League.

A stunning hat-trick from Ronaldo saw hosts Portugal to a 3-1 semi-final win over Switzerland, while Van Dijk played with typical composure in a game otherwise laced with defensive errors in Guimaraes – the Netherlands coming from behind to beat England 3-1 in extra time.

Van Dijk was named the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) Player of the Year on account of his imperious form for Liverpool and scooped man-of-the-match honours as Jurgen Klopp's side won the Champions League final against Tottenham last weekend.

As such there is an increasing clamour for the 27-year-old to be in contention for the Ballon d'Or, but, at Estadio do Dragao on Sunday, a five-time winner of the award will be doing everything to ensure Van Dijk's excellent season ends on a low note.

Using Opta data, we have a look two phenomenal campaigns that will collide and conclude in Porto.

Ronaldo – Hitting the ground running in Italy

21 – On his debut season at Juventus, Ronaldo struck 21 times in Serie A. Of that haul, 16 came after half-time. No player in the division scored more second-half goals.

18 – Those goals carried a decisive weight and were worth 18 points to Juve, who won an eighth consecutive Scudetto.

14 – Ronaldo's goals came against 14 different teams. Only John Charles (1957-58) and Brazil great Ronaldo (1997-98) scored against more teams in their first Serie A campaigns (both 15).

177 – Across Europe's top five leagues in 2018-19, no player attempted more shots than Ronaldo.

85 – But this did not come to the detriment of his team-mates. Ronaldo's 85 successful lay-offs were the most in Italy's top flight this term.

Van Dijk – Get past him if you can

64 – No player has successfully dribbled past Van Dijk in 64 games across all competitions for Liverpool. This run includes all 38 of his Premier League appearances this season and stretches back to 47 league games – a streak that began in March last year.

20 – No outfield player kept more clean sheets in Europe's top five leagues.

30 – Similarly, no outfield player won more games in those competitions than Van Dijk this season.

76.3 – The Dutchman boasts the highest percentage success rate of any player in the Premier League contesting more than 50 duels. Of 321, he won 245.

182 – Van Dijk won 182 of 243 aerial duels (74.9 per cent). Only Diogo Dalot and Harry Maguire won a higher percentage of players to have contested 25 or more.

2,724 – In terms of successful passes among Premier League defenders, Manchester City's Aymeric Laporte (2,768) is the only player to have completed more than Van Dijk.

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Dom Farrell

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