Cristiano Ronaldo, Manuel Neuer and Arjen Robben have been named in the three-man final shortlist for the UEFA Best Player in Europe award for 2014. A poll of journalists from each of UEFA’s 54 member nations whittled an original list of ten players down to three, leaving out players such as Lionel Messi, Diego Costa and Luis Suarez. The winner will be announced live during the Champions League Group Stage draw on 28th August,
Ronaldo is the firm favorite to receive the prize, despite having been named in the final shortlist for four years in a row and never won. Having set a Champions League goalscoring record, practically dragging Real Madrid to their historic tenth title, he also scored 31 goals in La Liga, winning the Pichichi trophy along the way. The former Manchester United man has improved as an athlete and matured as a human being in the last season, remaining the shining light in a stuttering Madrid team despite the arrival of Gareth Bale onto the scene.
However, if there is one thing standing in his way, it could be that he endured a poor World Cup – he missed several good chances in the final group game which saw Portugal crash out, though in fairness he was the main reason his nation made it to the tournament in the first place. In terms of club form, there has been no better player in the world, let alone Europe, in the last year than Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, one man who does have a World Cup medal around his neck is Neuer, almost unanimously accepted as the best goalkeeper in the world after a stellar season for club and country. Neuer redefined the sweeper-keeper role in Brazil, adding another trophy to his bulging collection in a year which also saw him claim another domestic double – though he did suffer an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Ronaldo & co. in the Champions League. Despite being the first goalkeeper to ever be named in the final three, Neuer is by no means a surprise inclusion having already been named German footballer of the year for the second time.
Robben also enjoyed a fruitful World Cup on his way to the semi-finals with a previously unfancied Netherlands team as well as enjoying the same club success as teammate Neuer. The flying winger picked up 22 goals for club and country over the course of another fantastic season, and provided much of the attacking flair in a Bayern Munich side that won the Bundesliga at a canter, long before the season drew to a close.
The fact that the Dutch were such outsiders at the World Cup could work in his favor, as Germany were expected to win with an experienced defense in front of keeper Neuer. Robben was arguably the inspiration for the Netherlands’ run, and his performance in the opening game’s thrashing of champions Spain was one of the best individual displays in Brazil. His Bayern partner in crime Franck Ribery received the accolade last year.
The journalists will vote live during the event in Monaco, though positions 4 to 10 have already been set after the previous round of voting:
4. Thomas Müller – 39 points
5. Philipp Lahm – 24
6. Lionel Messi – 24
7. James Rodríguez – 16
8. Luis Suárez – 13
9. Ángel Di María – 12
10. Diego Costa – 8