The Real Madrid and Barcelona stars are the frontrunners…
The winner of the Ballon d’Or is announced on Monday night, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi expected to be fighting it out for the top prize. However, the third finalist Manuel Neuer should not be completely discounted.
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The pair who have won the award for the last six years may have managed to break numerous goalscoring records, but the less glamorous work of the goalkeeper has been more important to his club and country. Not only this, but the 28-year-old has also won more trophies in the last twelve months than his competitors. The German’s cause is also backed up by the statistics of his last twelve months. The Bayern Munich man has managed an amazing twenty eight clean sheets, with a save percentage of 78.4%. Although this is probably not quite as awe inspiring as the goal tallies that his fellow finalists have managed to rack up, it is still a pretty impressive number.
However, this is not the main reason why the World Cup winner should be given the award. He should be given it mostly because he has actually managed to redefine what a goalkeeper is capable of. While Ronaldo and Messi have performed at the edges of what a forward can possibly do, they have done it in a fairly traditional manner by scoring goals. Meanwhile, Neuer has actually turned goalkeeping in to a sort of ‘last defender’ role, where he seems to spend more time outside of his area than in it. Although this is not completely unheard of with the sweeper-keepers of old really starting the position, it is incredible that he is able to do it with the pace of the modern game.
To add to this the Munich ace has won more trophies in the last calendar year than his competitors. He won both the World Cup and the Bundesliga during 2014, while Messi won nothing and Ronaldo only managed the Champions League. While winning Europe’s premier club competition is a great accomplishment, it is not quite on the level of the World Cup. The 28-year-old was also key to the German national team becoming world champions, while Ronaldo was perhaps less so in the Champions League. Without the keeper’s ability to play so far away from his goal would Germany and Bayern Munich have been able to play how they did? While without Ronaldo you feel that Real Madrid would have been just as capable of winning the Champions League.
These multiple trophies coupled with his importance to both teams he plays for are why the goalkeeper should win the Ballon d’Or ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Whether or not he actually does is a different matter.