Win­ners Real dom­i­nate Cham­pi­ons League short­list

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

SIX Real Madrid play­ers have made Uefa’s short­list for the best foot­ballers in each po­si­tional cat­e­gory who played in the Cham­pi­ons League last sea­son, the sport’s Euro­pean gov­ern­ing body said yes­ter­day.

Span­ish cham­pi­ons Real, who won Europe’s elite club com­pe­ti­tion for the sec­ond year in a row, were awarded half the to­tal slots on the short­list.

Cris­tiano Ron­aldo, who was the tour­na­ment’s top scorer, was named among the three best for­wards of the 2016-17 cam­paign along­side his Barcelona ri­val Lionel Messi and Ju­ven­tus’s Ar­gen­tine striker Paulo Dy­bala.

The best mid­fielder is sure to be from Real with their trio of Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Mo­dric the only names short­listed.

Real full-back Marcelo and cen­tre- back Ser­gio Ramos have been named in the best de­fender cat­e­gory along­side Ju­ven­tus’s Leonardo Bonucci, who has since moved to AC Mi­lan.

Goal­keeper is the only cat­e­gory where Real do not have a sin­gle con­tender, with Ju­ven­tus stop­per Gian­luigi Buf­fon, Bay­ern Munich’s Manuel Neuer and Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak in con­tention.

The win­ners will be an­nounced at the 2017/ 18 Cham­pi­ons League group stage draw on Au­gust 24 along with the Men’s and Women’s Player of the Year hon­ours.

The nom­i­nees were se­lected by a jury of 32 coaches from last year’s Cham­pi­ons League par­tic­i­pants and 55 jour­nal­ists cho­sen by the Euro­pean Sports Me­dia (ESM) group.

Uefa will an­nounce the Eur- opa League Player of the Sea­son award on Au­gust 25 with all three nom­i­nees – striker Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic and mid­field­ers Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan and Paul Pogba – cho­sen from last year’s win­ning Manch­ester United team.

Mean­while Napoli will have to over­come French side Nice if they are to end Italy’s dis­mal record in the Cham- pi­ons League play­off round fol­low­ing the draw made by Uefa yes­ter­day.

Serie A teams have been beaten in the play­off round for the last three sea­sons and six times in the last eight with Napoli among the vic­tims in 2014 when they lost to Ath­letic Bil­bao.

Napoli, which fin­ished third in Serie A last sea­son and reached the round of 16 in the Cham­pi­ons League, will play the first leg at home.

Nice, whose at­tack is spear­headed by mav­er­ick Ital­ian striker Mario Balotelli, have never reached the group stage although they qual­i­fied for the old Euro­pean Cup in 1956 and 1959.

English Premier League side Liver­pool were also handed a tough draw against Bun­desliga out­fit Hof­fen­heim, another team aim­ing to reach the lu­cra­tive group stage for the first time. The Ger­mans will be at home in the first leg.

Sevilla face Is­tan­bul Basak­se­hir while CSKA Moscow meet Swiss side Young Boys and Por­tu­gal’s Sport­ing take on FCSB, which were for­merly known as Steaua Bucharest and won the old Euro­pean Cup in 1986.

Scot­tish cham­pi­ons Celtic, also for­mer Euro­pean cham­pi­ons, will have to make the long jour­ney to Kaza­khstan for the re­turn leg of their tie after a draw against FC As­tana.

Qarabag, bid­ding to become the first Az­eri side to reach the group stage, meet FC Copenhagen while Greek side Olympiakos host Ri­jeka, sur­prise cham­pi­ons of Croa­tia last sea­son.

The win­ners of the 10 ties will join 22 teams that have qual­i­fied di­rectly for the group stage which will be played be­tween Septem­ber and De­cem­ber.

Lionel Messi

Cris­tiano Ron­aldo

Paulo Dy­bala

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