We know the player of the year has two locked in spots in Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi. These two forwards seem to always separate themselves from the rest of the world around this time of year. Last year, Franck Ribery made a case to compete with these two attackers, but ultimately failed and fell to the Portuguese winger. Over the years this list has included the usual. Attacking players seem to get the praise. Now we have seen some midfielders make the cut, but the last one that raised the award was Kaka for AC Milan in 2007. Where is the variety? Where is the twist we are all looking for? Where is the third finalist that will go against the trend and make it interesting?
Enter Manuel Neuer, Germany’s number one, Bayern Munich’s shot stopper, and the world’s most entertaining goalkeeper as well. Yes, you read that correctly, a goalkeeper. A goalkeeper has finally made the cut since Oliver Kahn made it back in 2002. Surely a goalkeeper cannot be the best player in the world. Wrong. Manuel Neuer makes a strong case as the best player in the entire world. Many pundits and critics that back up the decision of the Ballon D’or voting committee see it clearly, he is a legitimate choice to potentially take the award away from the tug of war Lionel and Cristiano have every year. Manuel Neuer has faced Ronaldo and Messi. Neuer left Ronaldo and Real Madrid deflated back in 2012 as he stopped Ronaldo and Kaka’s penalty attempts in extra time to beat Los Blancos. Ronaldo did get his redemption with getting two past Neuer earlier this year, but it was Neuer who had the final laugh as he kept Cristiano goalless in their match in the world cup. Messi has never put a goal past Neuer, in their only encounter, the Argentine was suffering from fitness, and the entire Barcelona squad was demolished by Bayern Munich 7-0 over two legs in 2013.
Manuel Neuer is undisputedly the finest goalkeeper in the world. His statistics back up that claim, and his consistent performances earned him that title. That form helped Die Mannschaft earn their fourth world championship in Brazil earlier this summer. Along the way, he collected the finest goalkeeper award in the tournament as well. What sets him apart from your top goalkeeper in the world is the entertainment factor. No one can remember of recent a goalkeeper as confident, and flat out insane as Manuel Neuer in the past 20 years. During matches, don’t be surprised if you see Germany’s number one fancy a dribble outside his penalty area and play midfield with his fellow teammates. Embodying the role as “sweeper” keeper and taking on world class attacking footballers outside his penalty area (where he cannot use his hands) as if he were a world-class defender. Manuel Neuer will head the ball, score a penalty, commit fouls, stand 50 yards away from goal, and score penalties as if he didn’t wear number one. Neuer has taken goalkeeping to a next level, and his accolades speak for himself that he is doing it correctly. In some context, you can call him the most complete player in the world. Earning him this spot amongst the best. Can Manuel Neuer compete against possibly the two greatest footballers ever? Yes. Can he actually win the award? Probably, but one thing we all know is that Manuel Neuer is a footballer first, goalkeeper second.