The Best Player in Europe ten-man shortlist was announced in mid-July, with the three finalist nominees to be named on 14 August and the award presented in Monaco on 28 August during the UEFA Champions League draw.
Ahead of that and in alphabetical order, UEFA.com runs through the players still in contention, drawing on our network of correspondents from across the continent for an insight into what made these hopefuls' 2013/14 campaigns so special.
Diego Costa (Spain, Club Atlético de Madrid – now at Chelsea FC)
UEFA.com Spanish newsdesk: Charged with the onerous task of replacing the AS Monaco FC-bound Radamel Falcao, 25-year-old Costa responded by more than doubling his top-flight goalscoring best, weighing in with 27 goals in 35 games as Atlético lifted their first Liga title in 18 years. His cool finishing, pace and physical prowess earned him a World Cup place with Spain and a move to Chelsea.
Marca: Diego Costa is an immense bundle of energy.
El País: [With his combination of] power and pace, Atlético relied on Costa to stretch opponents with his runs into space.
Ángel Di María (Argentina, Real Madrid CF)
UEFA.com Spanish newsdesk: Di María was seemingly indefatigable during Madrid's UEFA Champions League and Copa del Rey-winning season. Few players displayed more energy and eagerness to succeed than the man nicknamed the noodle, on account of his slight frame. He produced six assists as Carlo Ancelotti's side secured their first European triumph since 2002 and was on target against FC Barcelona in their domestic cup final win.
El Mundo: [With Argentina at the 2014 World Cup] Di María continued on the same line of superiority that started several months before at Madrid.
ABC: No matter what the minute, he merely looks forward and forgets about playing systems. His participation is key should the final outcome for his team be a positive one.
James Rodríguez (Colombia, AS Monaco FC – now at Real Madrid CF)
UEFA.com French newsdesk: He arrived at Monaco last summer in the shadow of his Colombia team-mate Falcao but enjoyed a fine first season, scoring nine goals and creating 12 in 34 Ligue 1 appearances. Injury to Falcao meant he carried a heavy burden for his country at the World Cup, but he delivered with six goals and duly won the Golden Boot. His big-money move to Madrid was of little surprise.
Le point: The surprise package of the World Cup managed to help his country to overcome star Radamel Falcao's absence. His great performances brought the Cafeteros to the last eight.
France TV: Fine player, good-looking; James Rodríguez has everything needed to be a success.
Philipp Lahm (Germany, FC Bayern München)
UEFA.com German newsdesk: It has been a season to remember for the Bayern and Germany skipper. His new club coach Josep Guardiola employed Lahm as a holding midfielder and described him as "the most intelligent player I have ever worked with," while there is no need to remind anyone of his exploits with his country this summer.
The class and versatility of Philipp Lahm might be hard to replace at the DFB team. At least he retains the @FCBayern.
— Franz Beckenbauer (@beckenbauer) July 18, 2014
Focus: What do Pelé, Paul Scholes and Philipp Lahm have in common? All retired from their national teams to focus fully on their clubs. Scholes only ended his career last year aged 39; Lahm could do similarly.
Süddeutsche Zeitung:From the first day of his career, he cultivated an ageless way of playing that does not include making mistakes. Lahm is a player who manages to play in a way that even on his few bad days he avoids heavy criticism.
Lionel Messi (Argentina, FC Barcelona)
UEFA.com Spanish newsdesk: Despite succumbing to several injuries prior to Christmas, Messi nonetheless racked up an impressive 41 goals in all competitions for Barça in 2013/14. Of his four club hat-tricks during the season, a treble in the 4-3 win at Real Madrid in March took him past Alfredo Di Stéfano as the Clásico's all-time leading scorer. He went on to be named as the World Cup's best player as Argentina reached the showpiece.
Mundo Deportivo: Hope came in the form of a name and surname: Lionel Messi.
Marca: No matter what is happening around him, Messi continues to show that he is designed to play in games of the [highest] quality.
Thomas Müller (Germany, FC Bayern München)
UEFA.com German newsdesk: Müller has had an incredible season again, finishing as Germany's top scorer at the World Cup after being his club's second-highest marksman during their double-winning season. You would not expect him to fit into Guardiola's way of playing, but the Bayern coach knows he must find room for a player who makes such unorthodox movements.
Süddeutsche Zeitung: He plays and talks in a pithy way – everyone listens to him. He will need another tournament to equal Miroslav Klose's record of World Cup goals – in the final the 24-year old would have needed to score six and barely missed out.
Die Welt: Even those openly against Bayern can identify with Munich player Thomas Müller; they can enjoy his relaxed ways in this excited, highly-charged world, and his ability to view football as just football.
Manuel Neuer (Germany, FC Bayern München)
UEFA.com German newsdesk: When Neuer played as an old-style sweeper in Germany's World Cup triumph over Algeria, many observers were surprised. For Neuer, though, it was just another day at the office – even as a goalkeeper he is part of a high-pressing game under Guardiola at Bayern. Add in his reflexes and command of his area and there is little doubt he is one of the best in the business.
Süddeutsche Zeitung: Before the tournament, there were experts from Flensburg to Garmisch-Partenkirchen who saw him as the best keeper in the world. Now that holds true between Oiapoque and Chuy as well as the North Pole to the South Pole.
Die Zeit: Manuel Neuer is entering spaces on the pitch unbeknownst to goalkeepers before him. If needed, he covers a third of his own half, where usually the German defence would sit.
Arjen Robben (Netherlands, FC Bayern München)
UEFA.com German newsdesk: When Robben squandered a crucial penalty in the 2012 UEFA Champions League final, some said he might leave Bayern. Two years later and the Netherlands forward is more popular than ever, having played a crucial role in helping Bayern win the 2013 edition of Europe's premier club competition as well as back-to-back domestic doubles.
Süddeutsche Zeitung: With the ball, he is quicker than most defenders are without it. While Robben is taking up the defence's attention, he creates space for his team-mates; even though he prefers to ignore them, from time to time he passes to them.
Neue Zürcher Zeitung: Arjen Robben is 30 years old and now where he always wanted to be. He is undisputed, admired, sometimes even loved. For him, the footballer from Groningen, this is an entirely new experience.
— Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) January 13, 2014
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal, Real Madrid)
UEFA.com Spanish newsdesk: The Portugal attacker's hunger to push Madrid towards a first UEFA Champions League title in 12 years was evident after the 29-year-old set a group stage goalscoring record. He would eventually finish with a tournament high 17, including one in the final, as Ancelotti's team lifted the trophy. He was also the Liga's leading marksman with 31 goals and was named FIFA Ballon d'Or winner.
AS: What has been so striking is Cristiano Ronaldo’s goalscoring evolution in the Champions League over the past two seasons.
Marca: Ronaldo never tires of winning titles, be they on a collective or an individual basis.
Luis Suárez (Uruguay, Liverpool FC – now at FC Barcelona)
UEFA.com English newsdesk: A simply sensational season for Suárez, made all the more remarkable by the fact he missed Liverpool's first five league games but still scored 31 goals – nine more than any other player in the English top flight. It was not only his finishing – from long and close range – but also his peerless ability to deceive his opponents in the blink of an eye that made him a cut above. Could be even more formidable alongside Messi and Co.
The Daily Telegraph: It is the quality, range and relentlessness of the goals that sets Suárez apart.
The Liverpool Echo: Here are the unquestionable facts: Suárez was one of the most skilful, ingenious players to pull on a red shirt. Suárez became one of the best Liverpool players in a generation.
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