I HARDLY fell off my chair when UEFA announced the three-man shortlist for the Best Player in Europe award for 2014/15.

It is hard to imagine there will ever be a who’s who list of European or world football without Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo being included.

Luis Suarez was added to the latest shortlist as a token gesture but it would be a brave – and pretty stupid – punter that bets against either Ronaldo or Messi picking up the prize.

Supporters and football lovers are maybe too quick to elevate the Barcelona and Real Madrid players to god-like status, but it is hard to think of any of their peers who can match their genius.

The greatest barometer of their success is perhaps the stranglehold they have had over the Ballon D’Or, generally regarded as the holy grail of football awards.

The pair have shared the last seven annual prizes, with Messi expected to scoop his fifth award when it is handed out next January, breaking Ronaldo’s two-year hold over the prize.

What I don’t understand is how two men – not gods or magicians – can dominate what is commonly referred to as the global game.

Football is not alone in producing this kind of sporting super hero.

Every now and again a true legend comes along that seems to possess powers his or her rivals can only dream of.

The chalice in snooker, for example, has been handed down over the years from the likes of Joe, Fred and Steve Davis to Stephen Hendry and more recently Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Golf has had Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, while tennis greats Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are currently fighting it out for the title of all-time greatest.

Boxing has a history of untouchables, with Floyd Mayweather Jnr set to duck and dive his way past Rocky Marciano’s unblemished record.

Swimming has produced memorable images of men with multiple gongs around their necks – Mark Spitz was the original before Michael Phelps usurped his Olympic feat.

But my favourite unbreakable has to be in athletics.

Mo Farah, Usain Bolt, Michael Johnson, Carl Lewis and Sergey Bubka have had more than their fair share of podium moments over the years but none can hold an Olympic flame to Edwin Moses.

I swear his opponents looked embarrassed to be on the same track.

The American 400m hurdler won a staggering 122 consecutive races, going nine years, nine months and nine days unbeaten, between losses to West Germany’s Harald Schmid on August 26, 1977 and Danny Harris on June 4, 1987.

Compared to Spitz and Phelps, his medal haul was small, only winning two Olympic golds at the Montreal Games of 1976 and Los Angeles in 1984, although politicians robbed him of an almost certain hat-trick when USA pulled out of the 1980 Games in Moscow.

What seems unfathomable to me is how, in such a technical discipline, where so many things can go wrong, that one man could be so much better than everyone else.

I guess the reality is, even though so many millions of people in the world fancy themselves as sporting superstars, only a handful at any one time can possess the unique combination of skill, stamina, physique and attitude to be the very best.