With just a month left to play in the 2014-15 season across Europe's big five leagues, one thing is looking increasingly clear: If 2014 was the year of Cristiano Ronaldo -- winner of ESPN FC's Player of the Month award in September, October and November -- then 2015 is looking like Lionel Messi's.
The Barcelona No. 10 has won each of our awards dating back to December -- with the exception of January's, when Remy Cabella won thanks to some persistence from Newcastle fans -- and has continued his scintillating form through his club's run for La Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey crowns.
Europe's top performers in April have been whittled to a three-man shortlist in consultation with WhoScored.com and ESPN FC's writers. Now it's up to you to select which of the three deserves to be named the ESPN FC Player of the Month for April.
NOTE: Only players with three or more appearances were considered.
LIONEL MESSI (Barcelona)
Even though Carles Puyol has retired, Xavi Hernandez nears the exit and Andres Iniesta is showing signs of aging, you might think the clocks are winding backwards in Barcelona based on the club's chase for a treble.
Further evidence of time travel exists when noting that the stature of Messi's performances seem to grow as the end of the season looms and the crucial fixtures stack up. In four matches vs. Paris Saint-Germain, Sevilla and Valencia this month -- vital fixtures in the club's quest for a treble-- the Argentine notched up a pair of goals and a pair of assists.
"Not only has Lionel Messi returned to his best, he's surpassed it," writes Barcelona blogger Francesc Tomas. "His influence for the Catalans continues to grow on a weekly basis. The way in which he has facilitated the explosion of both Luis Suarez and Neymar is a true reflection of the complete player he has now become.
"With the Argentinean star in the best form of his life and playing the best football more than a decade after making his professional debut, nobody can deny that we are witnessing the career of one of the best footballers to ever play the game -- as his jaw-dropping performances against Paris Saint-Germain, Almeria, Sevilla, Valencia and Espanyol this month clearly proved."
CRISTIANO RONALDO (Real Madrid)
Sure, it's been three matches since Cristiano Ronaldo has scored in any competition, and perhaps his petulance is beginning to really wear thin, but the Portuguese has actually registered a pretty astounding April, stats-wise. Across six league appearances, Real Madrid's No. 7 has scored eight times and assisted on four more. Of course, five of those strikes came in the 9-1 hammering of Granada.
Spain correspondent Dermot Corrigan writes: "Cristiano Ronaldo's goals and all-round performances during April have been key to keeping Real Madrid on track to compete for the Liga and Champions League double.
"Ronaldo began the month with the first five-goal haul of his entire career as Granada were mauled 9-1 at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. It's been a busy month for CR7, who has also been tasked with leading Madrid's attack given injuries have meant fellow attacking galacticos Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema have missed key games."
STEFAN KIESSLING (Bayer Leverkusen)
The last time Stefan Kiessling's goal total failed to reach double digits was 2010-11. Prior to April, the 31-year-old sat on just four strikes. Since, however, he's doubled that number as Bayer Leverkusen have reeled in second-placed Wolfsburg by three points; although have failed to make up any ground on third-placed Borussia Monchengladbach, two points ahead.
Germany correspondent Stephan Uersfeld writes: "Stefan Kiessling has always been a consistent goal scorer for Leverkusen. It's been different this season. The striker had been benched by coach Roger Schmidt, and by April, Kiessling had gone nearly two months without a Bundesliga goal. Some claimed that the seasoned Leverkusen man no longer had what it takes.
"Then he started April with a bang. Kiessling scored twice against struggling Hamburg, followed that up with another against Mainz and then came the fixture against Hannover. With Leverkusen collecting their seventh straight league win, Kiessling was unstoppable. He scored once and set up two more, while a second goal for the hard-running central attacker was ruled out for offside.
"Kiessling now has eight goals, and with four games left to be played, is on course to finish his fifth straight season with a double-digit tally."