FIFA have unveiled its three-man shortlist for the 2019 Best Men’s Player Award – with Cristiano Ronaldo, Virgil van Dijk and Lionel Messi all competing for the top prize.
The European superstars will battle it out to win the prestigious gong, currently held by Real Madrid’s Luka Modric, in a ceremony held in Milan on September 23.
All three names were recognised for their formidable achievements at both the front and rear of the pitch throughout the last year.
It comes as no surprise that Juventus’ Portuguese star has been nominated. His 21 goal haul in Serie A last season helped the Italian giants retain the title for an eighth successive season.
After opting to move from Real Madrid at the start of the last campaign, the mercurial forward played a crucial role in Juventus’ battle for silverware across several fronts.
He also excelled on the international stage, having lifted the UEFA Nations League with Portgual in June.
Ronaldo’s competitive streak and hunger for improvement has seen the 30-year-old remain at the pinnacle of the sport and continue to prove a menace for defences all across the continent.
The Portuguese had, however, lost out to fellow contender van Dijk for the UEFA Player of the Year award last week.
Virgil van Dijk
The towering Dutchman was voted PFA Player of the Year for last season, and also claimed the same title from UEFA for his heroics throughout Liverpool’s Champions League winning campaign.
Jurgen Klopp’s side had shipped just 22 goals and finished in second spot at the end of a breathless Premier League title race.
Van Dijk’s confidence and assured nature, no matter the situation, helped settle a notoriously shaky Reds defence – and countless elite strikers had failed to dribble beyond the 28-year-old across a 65-game run.
His reign as the world’s most expensive defender was brought to an end after Harry Maguire’s switch to Manchester United, but van Dijk continues to be Europe’s most feared centre half.
Van Dijk had also captained his country to the Nations League final, after Holland had topped a group containing powerhouses Germany and France.
The diminutive Argentine had netted a superb 51 goals in 50 games for Barcelona last season, confirming his credentials as one of, if not the very best in the world.
Ernesto Valverde’s men had clinched the La Liga, Spanish Super Cup and Copa del Rey titles, largely due to Messi’s unrivaled ability to ghost through defences and convert countless chances.
Messi was also crowned top scorer in the last Champions League campaign, including a thunderbolt 30-yard free kick against Liverpool at the Nou Camp.
However, the 32-year-old star was famously a victim of the English giants’ infamous comeback at the semi-final stage.
After another scintillating strike at Real Betis, which had even earned a rapturous ovation from the home faithful, Messi is also shortlisted for this year’s Puskas Award.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona)
Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus)
Harry Kane (Tottenham)
Eden Hazard (Real Madrid)
Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)