Mourinho said that Reds trio Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane are key names – but that Champions League glory alone was not necessarily enough to claim football’s most coveted individual prize.
“The World Cups and the Champions Leagues and the Euros, they are the ones that have something to say about it,” Mourinho said.
“But Cristiano was only Italian champion, Messi was only Spanish champion.
“Liverpool, European champions, but not champions domestically.
He singled out Liverpool defensive colossus Van Dijk as a key contender, especially if the Dutchman can help drive his team to UEFA Nations League glory, first when they play England in the semifinal this Thursday in Portugal.
“I think Van Dijk, why not a defender? But didn’t win the Premier League, in spite of [the fact that] he was considered the best player.
“But if Holland manages to go Portugal [in the Nations League] and win a trophy, a small trophy but a trophy, that can play [a role in deciding the Ballon d’Or].”
Liverpool teammates Salah and Mane are in a similar situation as they prepare for the Africa Cup of Nations this month, while Messi will play at the Copa America.
Salah netted 22 times in the Premier League and five times in the Champions League last season, while Mane also bagged 22 goals in the league and four in Europe.
Those stats were behind Argentina ace Messi, however, who scored 53 goals across all competitions, including 12 in the Champions League.
“Messi and Argentina with the [Copa] America cup, Salah and Mane in the African cup [of Nations].
“I think Salah was better last season than this season, but a European champion. Mane, fantastic all season and a European champion, and I think Senegal is qualified for the final phrase.
“I would go a little bit around this,” Mourinho added.
Mourinho ruled out other stars such as PSG duo Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
“Neymar this season was not good enough with his injury, Mbappe, fantastic season but bad Champions League and France didn’t reach [the Nations League finals].
“So I would be around Van Dijk, Salah, Mane, Messi. I would go around these,” he concluded.