UCL positional awards analysis: Which forwards deserved to join Cristiano?

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    UEFA Champions League Positional Awards winner Cristiano Ronaldo Best Forward

    UEFA released the final three-man shortlist of the players in contention for the prize at its inaugural positional awards. 

    The selection process for the best forward category saw Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Juventus’ Paulo Dybala nominated alongside the current best player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo. However, some fans believe the list should, instead, bear the names of other players who consistently performed splendidly for their respective clubs over the course of last season.

    By now, everyone is quite cognizant that Cristiano will be going home with the accolade come August 24 but would he have been paired against the right competitors? The biggest argument on this subject is the justification of Lionel Messi’s inclusion.

    The 30-year-old Barcelona forward, having established a 9-goal gap between himself and Cristiano Ronaldo up until the quarter-final of the Champions League, eventually succumbed and was overrun by the Real Madrid star at the 11th hour.

    His Portuguese rival needed just five games to bang in 10 more goals and snatched the crown as the tournament’s top-scorer. In scope, the Argentine’s failure to make an actual statement against Juventus in the quarter-final of the European competition saw his side crashing out via a 3:0 defeat.

    Messi failed to score in the quarter-final tie

    Now, is this a player who fits the bill to be elected as a nominee on the three-man shortlist? I beg to differ. In one corner is his former teammate, Neymar Da Silva, whom some believe should have taken the Barcelona number 10’s position on the list. The 25-year-old Brazilian topped the 2016/2017 UEFA Champions League assists leaderboard with eight assists.

    His most eye-catching highlight, however, is the splendid performance he put in against his new club Paris Saint-Germain during the Round-of-16 stage of the campaign. Naturally, many expected Lionel Messi to lead Barca’s insurgency after their 4:0 demolishing in the Parc des Princes yet, it was his co-attacker who promised an unfathomable comeback win prior to kick-off and actually delivered.

    Neymar was the star in Barcelona’s historic comeback win against PSG last season.

    The starring role following this ballsy act makes one wonder who the actual force was in the Barcelona dressing room. Nonetheless, Neymar hardly got the recognition he deserved as the praises, just as always, went to the Catalonia club’s main poster-boy, Messi.

    Although the former had the goals to show for, Neymar was undoubtedly the best player for Barcelona in last season’s competition. Having left the shadow of his former teammate for PSG, the Brazilian will definitely merit his due acknowledgment as he only managed to make the top six behind fourth-placed Kylian Mbappe and fifth-placed Robert Lewandowski.

    Nonetheless, a Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Neymar Jr shortlist would have certainly made a lot of sense. Moving on, another ‘victim’ in this case study is the list’s fourth-placed player, AS Monaco sensation, Kylian Mbappe. It is not every day that you see an 18-year-old boy make side’s as enormous as Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City seem like mere Sunday league clubs.

    With efficiency, composure, and bags of confidence, the French starlet made that happen. His manager, Leonardo Jardim believed in his talent and the teenager hardly disappointed. In a nutshell, his contribution to annihilating opponents throughout the group stages of the Champions League cannot be exaggerated.

    Despite being halted in the semifinal by Juventus, Kylian Mbappe managed to score his side’s only goal against the UCL’s Best Goalkeeper nominee, Gianluigi Buffon; a fate even Lionel Messi cannot boast of after four unsuccessful attempts.

    Messi has failed to score against Buffon in four meetings. Mbappe did it in two.

    It is obvious that the Argentine forward’s 11 goals were the main factor to have contributed to him securing the spot on the top 3 shortlist and his compatriot Dybala’s inclusion was also due to Juventus reaching the final.

    However, assessing the fact that Mbappe managed to score six goals in 536 minutes across 10 games, as compared to Dybala’s four in 797 minutes after 11 appearances, a spot beside his idol Cristiano Ronaldo would have been the least of the craziest things done and seen in football.

    A Cristiano-Dybala-Mbappe, Cristiano-Dybala-Neymar or a Cristiano-Neymar-Mbappe final three doesn’t sound bad at all!

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