A regional sports reporter rubbed shoulders with some of football’s biggest stars after being selected as part of a team of judges to pick the best player in Europe.
Dave Jones, a reporter for the Daily Post in Wales, and sports editor for weekly papers the North Wales Weekly News, Bangor & Anglesey Mail and Caernarfon Herald, was invited to help choose the winner of the UEFA Best Player in Europe award.
He was amongst a jury of 53, appointed by the European Sports Media Association, comprising renowned sports journalists representing each of the UEFA national associations.
Dave was chosen after the editor of Germany-based Kicker magazine Manfred Muenchrath asked writer Mel Thomas to find a Welsh press journalist suitable to be a judge for the UEFA Best Player award.
Said Dave: “Normally, it is tradition to invite a broadcast journalist but on this occasion the ESMA wanted a press journalist. Mel put my name forward, which was extremely flattering, and I was delighted to accept.”
Each journalist provided a list of their three best-ranked players from one to three. The names of the three nominees, Xavi HernÃ¡ndez, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, together with the full first-round voting results, were announced on 25 July on UEFA.com.
The deciding vote took place at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco during the UEFA Champions League group stage draw on Thursday when the journalists voted live, via an electronic system, to determine the winner from the shortlist of three.
Messi collected 39 votes to be declared the winner. Xavi was second with 11 votes and Ronaldo third on three.
Dave, who voted for Barcelona star Messi, and also chose Cristiano Ronaldo and Bangor City’s Michael Johnston among his original three choices, said he was overwhelmed by the experience.
“I normally cover just the Welsh Premier League, so to be part of such a prestigious international event is something that will live with me for a very long time,” he added.
“To be just a few yards away from legends like Messi, Ronaldo and Xavi was amazing and I also briefly met Paul Breitner, Sir Bobby Charlton and Ruud Gullit who were all involved with the draw. I also shared an escalator with Luis Figo. These were magical moments for me.”