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Lionel Messi Faces Tough Competition for UEFA Award

Barcelona's Lionel Messi has been shortlisted alongside Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo and Bayern Munich's Franck Ribéry for UEFA's Best Player in Europe Award 2013.

Christof Koepsel

The award, which is voted for by journalists across UEFA's associations, was created in 2011 and won by Lionel Messi in it's inaugural year. Last year's award was won by Andrés Iniesta after his Euro 2012 heroics which saw Spain lift the trophy. But this year Iniesta didn't make the top 10 which left the door open for Messi to win for the second time or Ronaldo or Ribéry to win their first.

There is no doubt Lionel Messi had another great season, scoring 46 league goals and guiding Barcelona to the La Liga title, while also adding another Ballon d'Or to the collection. He set the pace in the race for the Pichichi in the early stages of the season and broke the record of most goals scored in a calendar year, surpassing Gerd Muller as he scored 86 goals in 2012.

The end of the season was a little less extraordinary as Messi picked up an injury which effectively ruled him out of the rest of the season. The Argentine's mood reflected that of Barcelona as the club was knocked of the Champions League and the Copa del Rey by Bayern Munich and Real Madrid respectively.

Which brings us onto Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese winger also had another impressive season at Los Blancos, scoring 34 league goals in 30 appearances and assisting 10 times. Most impressively Ronaldo managed to steer relatively clear of the impending implosion caused by José Mourinho's public feud with Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos. Ronaldo also had a healthy contribution in the Champions League, scoring 12 goals in 12 games, the highest goal tally in that year's competition, and perhaps had some of his teammates reached his heights, Madrid would've challenged Barcelona for the La Liga title.

Internationally, Ronaldo continued his Madrid form for his country Portugal and passed the 100 cap mark, helping Portugal to the top of their World Cup qualifying group in the process. Having spent many award ceremonies coming up second best, Ronaldo will be hoping that for once it will be his name inside that golden envelope.

In terms of club trophies, Franck Ribéry trumps Messi and Ronaldo having won the treble with Bayern this season. The first major trophy of the season was the Bundesliga as Bayern confirmed themselves as champions in record time with six games to spare. Next was the Champions League final against German opponents Borussia Dortmund and Bayern triumphed their too, with a late Arjen Robben winner in the 89th minute sealing a 2-1 victory. The treble was completed in June as Bayern overcame Stuttgart to win the German Cup final in Berlin.

This trophy-laden season will be Ribéry's biggest influence when it comes to deciding the winner, something the player himself was very keen to point out. But as the player says, Messi and Ronaldo have both scored more goals then Ribéry and in an individual award that may tip the scale back in the La Liga players' favour.

To end this article, I thought I'd share with you what I believe to be each player's best goal of the 2012-13 season, enjoy!

Lionel Messi

Messi goals for Barcelona vs AC Milan 4-0 [12_3_2013] (via Videos the most beautiful)

Cristiano Ronaldo

Real Madrid VS Atletico Madrid |2-0] |1/12/2012| # Ronaldo FREEKICK (via John Cena)

Franck Ribéry

Best goal of Frank Ribéry ever!!! (via justin van loenen)

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