Zee Media Bureau/Jayanta Oinam
New Delhi: For a change, Lionel Messi will not be in contention for the 2013/14 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award. The Argentine failed to make the cut in the three-men final.
However, his familiar foes in Cristiano Ronaldo and Arjen Robben are vying to win the award for the first time. But the presence of German Iron-hand, Manuel Never will make the contest an intriguing one.
The winner will be decided in a glittering ceremony in Monaco with journalists from UEFA's 54 member associations vote live, via an electronic system.
Ronaldo, having helped Real Madrid complete their la Decima last term, will be the favourite to win the award. In a stellar season, the Portuguese star broke the record for most goals in a single UEFA Champions League campaign by scoring 17 goals. Ronaldo has been nominated in each of the previous editions since the award's inception in 2011.
Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben completed a productive season with the Bavarians, winning Bundesliga in a record time. Only Thomas Muller and Mario Mandzukic scored more than him in the club's cause. But his overall contribution in Pep Guardiola's side makes him the stand-out player in a star-studded line-up. Robben also had a good World Cup in Brazil, with Ornaje finishing third.
Robben's club-mate Manuel Neuer could become the first goal-keeper to win the award. The German No1 rounded off Bayern Munich's spectacular season with the World Cup triumph. He was awarded the best keeper of the tournament in Brazil and subsequently won the German footballer of the Year for a second time. His profile has seen a meteoric rise with both the club and national sides exploiting his ability to play as an extra-defender in defense.
Positions four to ten in this year's list have already been decided in the following order: Thomas Muller, Philipp Lahm, Lionel Messi, James Rodríguez, Luis Suarez, Angel Di Maria and Diego Costa.
In the women's section, Wolfsburg trio Nilla Fischer, Nadine Kessler and Martina Muller have been nominated following the German club's successful defending of their UEFA Women's Champions League title.
For the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award, a player's performance during club and international matches is considered. Anybody can win this award as long as he/she represents a team which operates inside UEFA's region.
Lionel Messi won the inaugural award for the 2010/11 season. In the subsequent years, his Barcelona team-mate Andres Iniesta and Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery have won the award for 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons respectively.