WORLD Cup-winning goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is the latest challenger aiming to break the Cristiano Ronaldo-Lionel Messi Ballon d’Or axis after the three-man shortlist for this year’s accolade was announced yesterday.
The 28-year-old is the first keeper to make the final three since Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon in 2006 and is bidding to become only the second gloveman to take the title after Russia’s Lev Yashin back in 1963.
Bayern Munich’s Neuer claimed a domestic league and cup double before winning the Golden Glove at the World Cup in Brazil in July, but faces stiff competition from a formidable duo who have dominated the winners enclosure for the last six years.
Reigning champion Ronaldo scored 51 goals during the 2013/14 season as Real claimed Champions League and Uefa Super Cup titles, while Barcelona’s Messi – a four-time winner – has been shortlisted for the eighth consecutive year having broken La Liga and Champions League goalscoring records last month.
The original 23-man longlist, which included former Tottenham forward Gareth Bale, was trimmed to three by governing body Fifa and magazine France Football, with the final announcement set to be made on 12 January.
Germany boss Joachim Low will go head-to-head with Real equivalent and former Chelsea tactician Carlo Ancelotti for coach of the year while ex-Argentina midfielder Diego Simeone, who led Atletico Madrid to the Spanish title, also makes the cut.
Holland striker Robin van Persie and Colombia forward James Rodriguez have been shortlisted for goal of the year following their exploits in Brazil, while Ireland’s Stephanie Roche also features following her stunning strike for Peamount United.