A SHIFT in power in Europe is now taking place in football, to mirror the political picture across the continent, after UEFA revealed the cast list for its player of the year.

The 10 candidates for the 2015/16 Player in Europe Award on the shortlist announced yesterday show a huge move towards Spain, with La Liga earning seven of the nominees. Four of those are from Real Madrid, reflecting their Champions League success.

Last year the dominant league was Italy, which provided five players who all played for Juventus. This time, goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is Serie’s A sole representative. The usual suspects, Lionel Messi, of Barcelona, and Real’s Cristiano Ronaldo, are again the favourites.

Messi is bidding to collect a third award, after winning in 2011 and 2015, while Ronaldo won in 2014. Last year, Ronaldo was the only Real player nominated, but this time the striker is alongside club-mates Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and his Portugal colleague Pepe, both of whom helped their country to triumph in Euro 2016.

The other La Liga players nominated are Barcelona’s Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann, who helped Atletico Madrid to the Champions League final and France to the Euro 2016 final with six goals as the competition’s to scorer.

The world’s richest league, in England, is not represented on the short list. Last year Chelsea’s Eden Hazard was the solitary member, but this time Leicester City pair, Riyadh Mahrez and Jamie Vardy were 11th and 12th, respectively. The Bundesliga has two players, Thomas Mueller and Manuel Neuer, both from champions Bayern Munich

Journalists from each of UEFA’s 55 member associations, including Scotland, provided a list of their five best-ranked players, with the first receiving five points, the second four and so on. The initial poll resulted in 37 players picking up votes.

The 10 players with the most points advance to the second vote, which will determine the three finalists to be named on August 5. The jury will then cast their votes for the outright winner, which will be announced during the 2016-17 Champions League group stage draw in Monaco on August 25.

The focus will again be on Messi and Ronaldo but there is also a case to be made for Buffon, who was among the best goalkeepers at Euro 2016 with Italy and helped Juventus to a fifth successive Serie A title. At 39, Buffon was so rejuvenated by his form that changed he his mind about retirement and signed another one-year deal at Juventus and this could be the last time he has any chance of picking up the award.

The nominees are: Gareth Bale (Real Madrid & Wales), Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus & Italy), Antoine Griezmann (Atlético Madrid & France), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid & Germany), Lionel Messi (Barcelona & Argentina), Thomas Müller (Bayern München & Germany), Manuel Neuer (Bayern München & Germany), Pepe (Real Madrid & Portugal), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid & Portugal), Luis Suárez (Barcelona & Uruguay).