By vinjeru Ngwira
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are absent from the final shortlist for the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year for the first time in a decade.
Bayern Munich duo Robert Lewandowski and Manuel Neuer, plus Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne, were nominated for the 2020 edition on Wednesday.
But in a sign of changing times in the game, Messi and Ronaldo didn’t make the top three after coming up short in the Champions League.
Barcelona star Messi won the UEFA award in 2010-11 and 2014-15 having been nominated six times in the past 10 seasons.
Ronaldo, of Juventus, has collected the accolade three times – in 2013-14, 2015-16 and 2016-17 – all while playing for Real Madrid.
He has been shortlisted nine times, finishing second in 2017-18 and third on five occasions.
His Juventus side were stunned by Lyon in the last-16 of the Champions League as they again bombed out of Europe’s premier competition.
Messi’s Barcelona suffered an even greater humiliation, however, as eventual winners Bayern thrashed them 8-2 in the quarter-finals.
Both players managed just three goals in eight Champions League outings last season, trailing 15-goal Lewandowski by a considerable distance.
The Polish striker is favourite to succeed Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk as the winner of the award, which will be revealed at the draw ceremony for the Champions League group stage on October
Lewandowski’s Bayern team-mate Neuer is also in the mix after another outstanding season as he helped his team win a Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League Treble.
De Bruyne inspired City’s run to the Champions League quarter-finals, where they too lost to Lyon, but City surrendered their Premier League crown to Liverpool.
Their nominations suggest a changing of the guard as Ronaldo, 35, and Messi, 33, move beyond their prime.
It’s been an unsettled summer for Messi, who tried to engineer a move away from Barcelona to reunite with Pep Guardiola at City, only to reverse his position and stay at the Nou Camp.
Meanwhile, Bayern coach Hansi Flick has been nominated alongside Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and Julian Nagelsmann of RB Leipzig for the Men’s Coach of the Year award.
Flick guided Bayern to a historic Treble triumph, while Klopp’s Liverpool smashed all manner of records as they ended a 30-year wait for an English league title. Nagelsmann led his Leipzig side to the Champions League semi-finals.
The nominees for the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year are Lucy Bronze (Lyon, now Manchester City), Pernille Harder (Wolfsburg, now Chelsea) and Wendie Renard (Lyon).