Christmas and the New Year is always a time for reflection, and this applies to football with those involved in the game invariably looking back on events of the past year. It was in such a spirit last winter that uefa.com decided to recognise individual achievements in European football, and the uefa.com users' Team of the Year concept was born.
The voting for the Team of the Year 2002 will begin on 6 January 2003, when 60 nominees for 12 positions, including coach, will be announced. The final team will be announced at the end of January.
Never intended to be or likely to viewed as a rival to more established awards, the Team of the Year does not bear the official UEFA imprimatur but provides a chance for the hundreds of thousands of fans who regularly use uefa.com to have their say. Indeed, some three million votes were cast last year for the Team of 2001.
Of course, practicality decrees the choice has to be limited to a degree, and the nominees were chosen by uefa.com staff writers, who cover football in all 52 UEFA member associations on a daily basis. The selection criteria is straightforward, with any player who plays club football in Europe, or who has played in UEFA club competition in 2002, and who has excelled in the process considered.
This year, the summer's FIFA World Cup has added a complication and effectively divided the year into three parts: the end of the 2001/02 season, the World Cup and the start of the 2002/03 season. With only a select few having hit the heights in each period, voters will have to calculate whether a good World Cup compensates for poor domestic form and vice versa.
Debate and discussion
The nominees' list will inevitably provoke debate and the omission of some players and the inclusion of others may rankle. The desire to make sure the best players of 2002 are considered means some players have been nominated in less familiar positions, although this is very much an exception to the rule.
The best of 2002
However, we feel confident that once Europe's football fans have had their say, the final 12 names will represent the best in Europe in 2002.
Team of 2001
For the record, the uefa.com users' Team of 2001 was: Santiago Cañizares - Cosmin Contra, Sami Hyypiä, Patrick Andersson, Bixente Lizarazu - David Beckham, Patrick Vieira, Zinedine Zidane, Kily González - Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet.