Cristiano Ronaldo Named 2013-14 UEFA Best Player in Europe

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistAugust 28, 2014

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo from Portugal celebrates his goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Cordoba at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium  in Madrid, Spain, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014 . (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
Daniel Ochoa de Olza/Associated Press

Cristiano Ronaldo has been named the UEFA 2013-14 Best Player in Europe for his contributions to the Real Madrid cause last season.  

Fox Soccer revealed that Ronaldo had been named victorious in Monaco, beating Manuel Neuer and Arjen Robben to the continental prize:

The award was handed out following the 2014-15 Champions League group stage draw, which marks the beginning of a new term at Europe's top table. All three players each had strong claims to the prize; below we summarise their main achievements over the past 12 months. 

Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid

Alastair Grant/Associated Press

La Decima was a fantastic achievement for Real Madrid as one of football's great fraternities, but the club's tenth European title would undoubtedly not have come about last season were it not for Ronaldo.

Of course such theories can never be 100 percent proven, but when a player scores 17 Champions League goals en route to the ultimate continental prize, such assurances can be made.

This was the second season in a row Ronaldo finished as the tournament's top scorer, his tally of 17 setting a new record for goals scored in a single campaign.

Add to that figure another 31 goals from La Liga competition and Ronaldo's scoring haul becomes all the more spectacular, boasting an average shot accuracy of 58 percent across both competitions, per Squawka.

The statistical breakdown of Ronaldo's performances looks all the more impressive when weighed up against some of last season's Real Madrid teammates:

This year is the fourth in succession that Ronaldo had been nominated for UEFA's Best Player in Europe, highlighting just how consistently he produces his best at the top level of European football.

His goal in the Champions League final against Atletico wasn't the winning strike, but it was somewhat fitting that Ronaldo capped off the scoring, placing the man of the moment rightly on centre stage as La Decima was clinched.

Manuel Neuer, Bayern Munich

Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

The guardian of Germany's gates was one of the most fervently discussed players throughout the 2014 World Cup, and the triumph in Brazil came in no small part thanks to Neuer's incredible standards.

Setting a new example for the kind of influence a goalkeeper can have on his team, national glory came Neuer's way as a result, but his club form for Bayern Munich in 2013-14 is of course the foundation of his nomination.

There, the No. 1 aided Pep Guardiola's side in their run to a domestic double, claiming both the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal titles, as well as winning the FIFA Club World Cup.

Some might argue that having a capable defence in front relieves pressure from a goalkeeper in Neuer's circumstances, but one can rest assured Der FCB's stopper had his part to play in establishing Bayern as the best defence in Germany.

The 28-year-old kept a total of 15 clean sheets in league competition and made an average of 1.61 saves per game, per Squawka.

There's not many a weakness that can be picked out from Neuer's game as he continued to cement his status as likely the best goalkeeper in the world throughout 2013-14.

Arjen Robben, Bayern Munich

The second Bayern star to make their way into the final three this year, Robben lit up German, European and world football with his typically enthralling style.

Guardiola's arrival at the club's helm shook up matters at the Allianz Arena, but something that stayed constant, much to the joy of his new manager, was Robben's furious tempo with the ball at his feet.

Speaking to German newspaper Kicker (h/t ESPN FC's Stephan Uersfeld), the Dutchman spoke of his pride at being nominated for the Best Player in Europe award:

Just to make the short list is a great acknowledgement for my performance not only this year, but also over the last 18 months. I am proud to be among the best three players in Europe. That's a great compliment. I was far away from that two years ago. We lost the Champions League final at home [against Chelsea], and I missed a penalty.

The criticism that followed, the match between Bayern and the Netherlands, where I got booed, the bad European Championship with the Netherlands. That was a really difficult time. But I fought back, and never gave up. I am back, and stronger than ever before. It's just something I am incredibly proud of. It's about judging that time, and of course I would love to win it. To pick up that accolade would be the reward for the last years. But life will go on should it not work out. I am a positive guy.

Unlike Bayern team-mate Neuer, Robben saw his World Cup dreams end at the semi-final stage, eventually claiming third place as part of Louis van Gaal's Netherlands.

However, his individual importance to the side further illustrated Robben's potential for single-handedly turning a fixture on its head, particularly in an essential group win over Mexico.

The 30-year-old divided his contributions from the wing, scoring 11 goals in 28 league appearances, but also crafting 51 scoring chances in that time, per Squawka.

And like Neuer, Robben has a domestic duo of titles to show for his troubles, showcasing the form of his life and spearheading Bayern's offence across all fronts.