UEFA have announced the 32 names that comprise the Best Player in Europe Award shortlist, with Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Iker Casillas the early front-runners.
Premier League champions Manchester City have six players on the list (Aguero, Balotelli, Hart, Kompany, Silva and Yaya Toure), with England striker Wayne Rooney the only inclusion from Manchester United. New signing Shinji Kagawa also makes the list though, rewarded for his fine campaign at Borussia Dortmund.
Champions League winners Chelsea have four players recognised in the list (Cech, Drogba - now at Shanghai, Lampard and Torres), whilst Dutch striker Robin Van Persie is the only name on the list for Arsenal.
La Liga representation is understandably high, with seven Real Madrid players on the shortlist. Mesut Ozil, Xabi Alonso, Ronaldo and Casillas are the major names, whilst Barcelona have four players on the list – Messi, Iniesta, Xavi and Fabregas.
Atletico Madrid hitman Radamel Falcao is also on the list, as is AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Bangor City striker Leslie Davis.
Polish star Jakub Błaszczykowski joins Kagawa for his efforts last season at Dortmund, whilst Spanish legend Raul (Schalke) and Croatian playmaker Luka Modric (Spurs) have also made the cut.
Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo is the only outfield representative from the Juventus ‘invincibles’ who won Serie ‘A’ without losing a game, with goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon also rewarded for his part in the side’s famous triumph.
The initial list will be cut down to three players on August 14th, before live voting from journalists in Monaco finds out the winner on the 30th of the same month.
This particular award is in just its second year of existence, with Messi scooping the inaugral prize last year ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo and Xavi Hernandez.
The shortlist is created by 53 journalists from UEFA’s member associations, all of whom rank the best five players in Europe – in their opinion – in order.
Anyone who gets a vote gets on the shortlist, hence the controversial inclusion of Davies - a 17st striker plying his trade in the Welsh league.
Michel Platini came up with the concept, aimed at ‘reviving the spirit of the European Footballer of the Year award’. As head of UEFA, he created the award after the Ballon d’Or was merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year award, creating the FIFA Ballon d’Or, in 2010.
Never one to let Sepp Blatter get the better of him, Platini managed to work quickly to create the far from catchy 'Best Player in Europe Award'. And, with some of the world's best plying their trade on this continent, it simply can't fail to gain huge interest in all corners of the globe.
UEFA Best Player in Europe Award - Shortlist:
Sergio Agüero (Manchester City), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Mario Balotelli (Manchester City), Jakub Blaszczykowski (Borussia Dortmund), Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Petr Cech (Chelsea), Fabio Coentrao (Real Madrid), Les Davies (Bangor City), Didier Drogba (Shanghai Shenhua), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Falcao (Atletico Madrid), Joe Hart (Manchester City), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (AC Milan), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Luka Modric (Tottenham), Mesut Özil (Real Madrid), Pepe (Real Madrid), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Raúl (Al-Sadd Sports Club), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), David Silva (Manchester City), Fernando Torres (Chelsea), Yaya Touré (Manchester City), Robin van Persie (Arsenal), Xavi (Barcelona).
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