THE shift in power within European football was underlined yesterday when two Bayern Munich players were among the nominees to be named the continent's top-three players, with Lionel Messi left out for the first time in eight years.
Manuel Neuer, the Bayern goalkeeper, and his team-mate, winger Arjen Robben, were yesterday named by Uefa on the shortlist for European Footballer of the Year, alongside Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid. Four-time winner Messi - who was second last year behind Bayern's Frank Ribery - did not make the cut from the final 10.
The omission of the Argentine reflected the fact that Barcelona did not win either a Spanish or European honour last season, although the forward did lead his national side to the World Cup final. However, the fact that Neuer was one of three German players listed in the top five - Bayern team-mates Thomas Mueller and Philipp Lahm were the others - underlines the scale of the task which will face Scotland when the national team visits Dortmund next month to face the world champions in their Euro 2016 qualifying group opener.
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Were Neuer to upset the odds and win the award ahead of attacking players Robben and Ronaldo, the German would be the first goalkeeper to be named European Footballer of the Year since Lev Yashin in 1963.
Ribery won the award last year following Bayern's victory in the 2013 Champions League final, but even although the club were eliminated from the competition by Real Madrid last term, Bayern are still considered to be Europe's major force.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the chief executive of the German champions and a two-time winner of the European award during his playing days, extolled Neuer and Robben for their nominations. "This is great news, not just for the two, but also for Bayern," said Rummenigge. "We can now be proud, regardless of the outcome."
The award will be presented in Monaco on August 28, during the Champions League group stage draw, with a live voting section to decide between the trio. The award is given by a jury of journalists from each of Uefa's 54 member associations - including Scotland - and a shortlist was whittled down from an original list of 35 players nominated across the continent.