UEFA have announced which players are in the running for the creatively named “UEFA Best Player in Europe Award.”
And there are some serious surprises. For starters, there are no Spanish internationals included in the list of ten stars who can scoop the highly coveted accolade.
That includes the 2012 winner Andres Iniesta.
Four players hail from the Bundesliga, while just two players were shortlisted from the EPL.
So, in no particular order, here are the candidates as we see who the favorite is to win the award, which will be announced in Monaco on August 29 during the UEFA Champions League group stage draw.
Here are the top dogs.
Gareth Bale (Wales) – Tottenham
After scoring 26 goals last season, and rescuing Tottenham on multiple occasions, Bale has to be in the running to win this award. The Welshman is still only 23 and it seems as though moves to Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona are on hold as he aims to reach the Champions League with Spurs. The rest of Europe already know how good he is though.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden) – Paris St-Germain
Helping PSG to their first French title since 1994, Zlatan was phenomenal up front. The Swedish striker is never short of controversy, but 35 goals in 46 games is an incredible record. The 31-year-old is a menace and should get more accolades like this.
Robert Lewandowski (Poland) – Borussia Dortmund
Despite the recent news of him leaving Dortmund for rivals Bayern Munich in 2014, Lewandowski’s achievements last season can’t be overlooked. Four goals against Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals and 36 goals in 48 games overall was the giant Polish strikers record goal haul.
Lionel Messi (Argentina) – Barcelona
Probably the favorite. We all know why. The four-time reigning World Player of the Year was once again in sensational form. Despite Barcelona missing out on the Champions League, Messi dazzled with 60 goals in 50 games. If he didn’t get injured at the end of the season, it could’ve been more.
Thomas Mueller (Germany) – Bayern Munich
European champion and a clinical finisher, Mueller can really play anywhere in attack. With yet another solid season for club and country under his belt, the young German has seen his stock rise further. Probably an outsider for this though.
Franck Ribery (France) – Bayern Munich
Yet another European champion, the French international had a remarkable season with Bayern. He was back to his best after injury hit spells had curtailed his career in the Bundesliga, again an outsider, but next year he will be even better.
Arjen Robben (Netherlands) – Bayern Munich
Scoring the winning goal in the Champions League final…. it doesn’t get much better than that. The Dutch wing-wizard has excelled in his new role at Bayern, and he made up for the pain of defeat in previous World Cup and Champions League finals by sealing Munich’s triumph at Wembley.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) – Real Madrid
Messi has broken all kinds of records in the past few years but Ronaldo isn’t far behind. the Portuguese attacker has delivered time and time again at Real Madrid, 55 goals in 55 games is sensational. Between him, Bale and Messi for this trophy.
Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany) – Bayern Munich
The heart and soul of Bayern’s Champions League triumph, Schweinsteiger really deserves being on this shortlist. People are often left in awe of his work rate, but he has an eye for a pass and can create wonderful chances for his teammates.
Robin van Persie (Netherlands) – Manchester United
He brought the EPL crown back to Old Trafford with his goals last season. 26 in total saw RVP become a fans favorite at United, can the 29-year-old Dutchman add a piece of personal silverware to his collection?