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On Thursday, as part of the UEFA Champions League draw ceremony in Monaco, a panel of 12 respected journalists with an interest in the female game will cast their votes for the 2013/14 UEFA Best Women's Player in Europe Award.
VfL Wolfsburg trio Nilla Fischer, Nadine Kessler and Martina Müller have been nominated after the second round of voting by the panel – each committed to supporting women's football and selected by the European Sports Media (ESM) group – from the original shortlist of ten picked by the coaches of the 2013/14 UEFA Women's Champions League quarter-finalists. Our own women's football editor Paul Saffer looks at the case for the three players hoping to take an award won in its inaugural year by Germany goalkeeper Nadine Angerer.
Nilla Fischer (defender, VfL Wolfsburg/SWE)
International caps: 108
Position in 2013 vote: 6th
• She was a midfielder for most of her career until early 2013, when the 28-year-old was transformed into a centre-back by Sweden coach Pia Sundhage: a role in which Fischer has thrived.
• A key signing from Linköpings FC by reigning European champions Wolfsburg, Fischer had a spectacular first season outside Sweden. In her 31 appearances Wolfsburg conceded only 22 goals as they retained the European and German titles.
• A fierce physical presence, Fischer has a superb all-round game and that includes scoring goals when needed: as proved at UEFA Women's EURO 2013 in helping the hosts to the semi-finals.
"She has grown a lot as a player, because she is in a different position from what she is used to."
Sweden captain Caroline Seger
Nadine Kessler (midfielder, VfL Wolfsburg/GER)
International caps: 29
Position in 2013 vote: 4th
• Could well have won the award in 2013 after captaining Wolfsburg to a grand slam of titles and proving the heart of Germany's UEFA Women's EURO 2013 win alongside her midfield partner for club and country, Lena Goessling.
• Kessler was ever-present in both the UEFA Women's Champions League and Frauen Bundesliga for Wolfsburg in 2013/14 as they retained both titles, and at one point the defensive midfielder went on a run of 13 goals in 16 games.
• Her moment of the season was her mazy dribble inside the penalty box to set up Martina Müller's UEFA Women's Champions League final winner against Tyresö FF, deciding an epic match that ended 4-3.
"I trust her, I know her runs, I know what she does. We understand each other blindly on the pitch. I am always happy when Nadine is standing next to me, because I know that if I don't get back fast enough she is there for me."
Team-mate Lena Goessling
Martina Müller (midfielder, VfL Wolfsburg/GER)
Position in 2013 vote: -
• Müller was a Wolfsburg player in the second division in 2005 – now two years running she has scored the winners in tight UEFA Women's Champions League finals.
• The former German international, like Fischer, has changed position from a centre-forward to a midfielder, but she is still never short of goals: her two in the 2014 UEFA Women's Champions League final took her to a joint top-scoring ten for the season.
• Even with two FIFA Women's World Cup and a pair of UEFA Women's EURO winners' medals in her collection, not to mention an Olympic bronze, she remains hungry to succeed and an energetic presence on the pitch.
"She has been here since 2005 and is the face of the club. It is no coincidence that she is our top scorer."
Wolfsburg coach Ralf Kellermann
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