For the second year in a row, Lionel Messi is not the Best Player in Europe (award winner). Since the shake-up in 2010 that combined the Ballon d'Or with the FIFA World Player of the Year award and led to the creation of the UEFA Best Player in Europe award as a replacement for the European Footballer of the Year award, the newest honor seems to be finding an identity as something that recognizes the under-recognized.
After Messi won the inaugural award for the 2010/11 season, it then went to Andres Iniesta last season, who edged out joint-second place Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo by a mere two votes. For 2012/13, Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery was given the honor by a wide margin, with 36 votes to Messi's 14 and Ronaldo's three (the same number he got in 2010/11). Which is probably why Ronaldo decided not to even attend the ceremony this time. A man can only make so many embittered scowls in his lifetime.
The award is voted on by journalists representing UEFA's member nations during the Champions League draw and is supposed to recognize the best player from a European club for the previous season. All competitions at both the club and international level are supposed to be considered. But with the relatively small group of 53 journalists voting, the award is becoming a response to the two best players in the world hoarding all the accolades.
Messi and Ronaldo's astonishing individual statistics are certainly justification to give them most any award, but with Iniesta and now Ribery — two players whose talents aren't fairly represented in popular stats — winning Best Player in Europe, the focus of these voters seems to be more on the value provided to a successful team. Ribery was a driving force in Bayern winning the treble last season, though he only had 11 goals in all competitions at the club level.
So while Messi collects his annual Ballon d'Or awards and Ronaldo harnesses his feelings of being disrespected to score mountains of goals, it's nice to see the wealth get spread around a bit. Though Lionel Messi might not agree.