It’s fair to say that Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has had quite the effect on the club’s new midfielder, Xabi Alonso.
The Spanish international told Marca on Wednesday that not only is Neuer “the best keeper I have played with by far” but “it would absolutely be fair if he won the Ballon d’Or.”
High praise for Neuer but words that few would be up to argue against. Widely hailed as the best goalkeeper in the world, Neuer is chased by Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois and, to a lesser extent, Juventus’ Gianluigi Buffon and Manchester United’s David De Gea.
But what about the Ballon d’Or shout? If Neuer did capture the honors, would it be fair? While “fair” is a relative term it would be hard to envision the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and even Arjen Robben being shocked were it to play out that way.
The main problem with Neuer, of course, is that he’s a goalkeeper and offensive abilities tend to be the deciding factor in who wins the award. To wit, only three defenders – Fabio Cannavaro, Franz Beckenbauer and Matthias Sammer – have hoisted the trophy while only a single goalkeeper has managed the feat, the Soviet Union’s Lev Yashin in 1963. It goes without saying that to be the first goalkeeper in 51 years would be a massive achievement.
The competition is stiff, however, with Ronaldo putting up 52 goals and 16 assists in 52 total matches for club and country this year and Messi notching 46 goals and 21 assists in 59 appearances. For his efforts, Ronaldo hoisted trophies for victories in the Champions League, Super Cup and Copa del Rey while Messi failed to win a single trophy for club or country but did finish runner-up in the World Cup finals capturing the Golden Ball award along the way.
In his favor, Neuer is in the best form of his career having guided Bayern to Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal titles while winning the coveted World Cup finals with Germany and being named the best keeper in the tournament. Also to be considered is the fact that Neuer has single-handedly revolutionized the goalkeeping position, playing as a sweeper-keeper who spends more time between his 18 yard box and midfield than he does on the goal line. With his size, mobility, silky skills and excellent vision it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that had Neuer played in the field, there’s a good chance he could’ve made it to the top level.
Earlier today Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal was asked who he thought should win the Ballon d’Or, to which he replied: “You always have to win something and the best thing to win is the World Championship. I hope it shall be a German player because they deserve it.” Toni Kroos, Philipp Lahm, Thomas Muller, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Gotze have all been nominated alongside Neuer. But do any of them deserve it more than the goalkeeper?