UEFA.com's men in the know underline the claims of contenders Manuel Neuer, Arjen Robben and Cristiano Ronaldo to the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award.
Following the announcement of the final shortlist for the 2013/14 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award, UEFA.com turned to its team of experts to make a case for each of the three nominees ahead of the winner being crowned in Monaco on Thursday 28 August.
Phil Röber (German newsdesk) on Manuel Neuer
The fact is that Manuel Neuer is not just a goalkeeper. People say he has reinvented the 'libero' role and the qualities that he brings to bear on the field make him incredible value – not just for the general build-up play but also for preventing counterattacks.
Just like he usually gets to the ball first in one of his typical sprints, he will also take advantage of any slight hesitation and beat you to that one empty parking spot on the street as I had to experience once. Last season, during an interview for UEFA.com, Neuer sat down with me despite feeling quite ill. When I asked him whether he would still train, he started laughing and said he is not that easily stopped from going to work. If you look at how he risks his own neck when storming out for a clearance, you get a feeling for his general attitude to go through hell and high water for his team.
Berend Scholten (Dutch correspondent) on Arjen Robben
Once labelled 'man of glass' due to his injury problems, Arjen Robben enjoyed arguably a career-best year in 2013/14. Having helped FC Bayern München to UEFA Champions League glory in May 2013 with an assist and winning goal, the forward continued excelling for Bayern as well as pursuing his ambition of shining at the FIFA World Cup and exorcising his 2010 final miss – when Iker Casillas denied the Netherlands a possible first global title.
When I interviewed Robben at the Brazil finals, his determination to succeed was clear; he was in his best-ever shape and entirely focused on lifting the World Cup. The Oranje came close, propelled by the winger's three goals and assist. His speed, dribbling and deadly left foot made him a FIFA Golden Ball candidate; however, probably because of the Dutch semi-final defeat, Robben, like his team, only took bronze. The 30-year-old, though, showed so much class that, at times, it seemed he almost single-handedly got Louis van Gaal's side through matches.
Pedro Marques (Portuguese newsdesk) on Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo has come a long way since I saw him debuting for Sporting Clube de Portugal against FC Internazionale Milano in a UEFA Champions League qualifier in Lisbon – exactly 12 years ago today, when he was just 17. I witnessed his first goal too – dribbling through several Moreirense FC players to score an absolute beauty. You could see he was destined for big things, though no one could predict what he would achieve.
He is more mature now: maybe less a dribbler but more incisive and an amazing finisher; the complete player. He has pace and he scores with both feet, his head as well as his trademark free-kicks. In 2013/14 he was as brilliant as ever, registering 51 goals for his club and firing Real Madrid CF to UEFA Champions League glory with a competition-record 17 strikes. One of his most memorable displays came in Solna with a hat-trick for Portugal against Sweden that sealed FIFA World Cup qualification and made him his country's all-time leading marksman.
The views expressed here are the writers' own and not those of UEFA