Voting began at the start of November, and it’s now time to announce the three man short-lists for the It’s Football Not Soccer World Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and Manager of the Year.
The top three are in no particular order, and voting is now open to choose your winners. Here’s your short-lists in alphabetical order…
World Player of 2014
Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid and Portugal
It hasn’t been a perfect 2014 for CR7. Atletico pipped Real Madrid to the title, and in Brazil, Portugal whimpered out while his long-time top-spot rival Messi almost dragged Argentina to glory. He wasn’t the best player in the Champions League final, either, even if he did capture every front page thanks to his topless showboating. But ultimately, Ronaldo earned the right to be poster boy for the side that finally earned the lusted-after Decima. His heroics throughout the quest are the kind of thing you ultimately get statues for. He was the tournament’s top scorer, with 17 goals, and he got them when they counted, including two in the semi-final bludgeoning of Bayern.
Lionel Messi – Barcelona and Argentina
Never has a man been awarded best player at a World Cup and looked so uniquely crestfallen, so utterly bemused. Messi had a disappointing year in the eyes of many, yet he still notched 41 goals and 16 assists in all competitions for Barcelona. He carried Argentina to a first World Cup final since 1990, scored four goals (including two crucial winners) and won player of the tournament, but was still criticised heavily for going missing – particularly in the final during which he spurned a golden chance at 0-0. Messi remains one of the world’s best players, and records have recently tumbled at his feet. He has now scored the most goals in both La Liga history and Champions League history. At 27 years old.
Manuel Neuer – Bayern Munich and Germany
The best goalkeeper in the world? For sure. In 2014, Manuel Neuer didn’t just help Germany win the World Cup and Bayern the domestic double; via his daring antics as last line for club and country he helped redefine the entire concept of modern goalkeeping. Neuer’s sweeper-keeper approach was most prominently on display in the World Cup second round against Algeria, when he operated virtually as a fifth defender by making crucial defensive interventions outside his own area, his skill and anticipation prompting national team coach Joachim Low to describe him as the ‘perfect player’. Who am I to argue?
Young Player of 2014
Eden Hazard – Chelsea and Belgium
As God-gifted as he’s always been, Hazard just keeps getting better and better. “He was a kid always living on his amazing natural talent,” is how Jose Mourinho remembers his first view of the Belgian, by which he meant he was ridiculously gifted going forwards but lazy tracking back – as evidenced by his culpability in Atletico Madrid’s equaliser at Stamford Bridge in last season’s Champions League. Over the last 12 months, however, this has changed. Still irresistible as an attacking element, Hazard is now willing to do the dirty work to help out his team. Continue at the current rate and he could be up for the main award this time next year.
James Rodriguez – Real Madrid and Colombia
The year 2014 has seen James go from hipster favourite to household name – and one pronounced correctly, too. Rodriguez spent the first half of the year helping to shoulder the burden caused by Radamel Falcao’s injury lay-off – for both club and country. Having helped Monaco back into the Champions League for the first time in nine years, Rodriguez headed to Brazil with the aim of making good on Colombia’s ‘dark horses’ tag. Six goals and a run-in with an oversized cricket later, he was the most talked about player in world football. This inevitably led to a big-money move to Real Madrid, where his influence is steadily growing in his debut season.
Neymar – Barcelona and Brazil
Neymar’s 2013/14 ended with domestic disappointment and World Cup heartbreak (and back-break). The signing from Santos struck 13 goals and set up 11 others as Barca lost out to Atletico Madrid both in the La Liga title race and Champions League quarter-finals. With the weight of a nation on his shoulders, Neymar seemed to be single-handedly dragging Brazil through their home World Cup – converting an ice-cool penalty in the last 16 shootout against Chile – only for Colombia’s Camilo Zuniga to fracture the Brazilian’s spinal vertebra, and Germany to crush Brazil’s spirit.
Manager of 2014
Carlo Ancelotti – Real Madrid
La Decima had evaded any Real Madrid for 11 years until last season, when Ancelotti guided Los Blancos to Champions League glory, shortly after winning the Copa del Ray. He has an incredibly strong squad at his disposal, and as I write Real are on a 17 match winning run in all competitions.
Diego Simeone – Atletico Madrid
Simeone and Atletico Madrid broke the current record of Real Madrid and Barcelona battling for the La Liga trophy in 2013-14, as they stormed to the title on the final day. Reaching the Champions League final can also be seen as a massive achievement, and they did it all with no expectations to do so at all.
Joachim Low – Germany
No surprise that this guy is on the list, he won the World Cup for God’s sake! It wasn’t luck or good fortune either for Germany in the summer, as they impressively won the tournament with a 1-0 win over Argentina in the final. Things haven’t gone so well since though…
Each person’s votes will be added on to their previous tally, and the results will be announced on 31st December along with the top ten players, team of the year and goal of the year.