Ronaldo, Messi, Neuer up for Ballon d’Or
LONDON (AP) — The goalkeeper who won the World Cup will be challenging Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for the Ballon d’Or.
While the footballer of the year prize has switched between the world’s top scorers since 2008, Manuel Neuer of Germany is the first goalkeeper to make the Ballon d’Or top three since 2006.
Ronaldo won the 2013 honor, ending Argentina forward Messi’s three-year run as the world’s best player since FIFA and France Football magazine merged their awards.
In the women’s category, five-time winner Marta of Brazil was nominated on Monday alongside 2012 winner Abby Wambach and Germany midfielder Nadine Kessler, who is seeking the honor for the first time.
The winners, chosen by national team captains and coaches, plus selected journalists, will be announced in Zurich on Jan. 12.
Messi has broken the Champions League and Spanish league scoring records this month after winning the Golden Ball at the World Cup, but he will end 2014 without a team honor.
Argentina lost to Germany in the World Cup final, Bayern Munich goalkeeper Neuer keeping a clean sheet as he followed winning the German league and cup by lifting football’s biggest prize.
The last goalkeeper to make the Ballon D’Or top three was Gianluigi Buffon after Italy won the World Cup final in a shootout against France.
Neuer earlier this month played down his chances of winning the top individual award in football by citing his lower profile away from the pitch, particularly his lack of photo shoots wearing underwear.
Ronaldo, though, is one of the most marketable men in sport — posing regularly in adverts when wearing little and celebrating scoring in the Champions League final in May by ripping off his shirt to show his muscled body to cameras.
Although the two-time Ballon D’Or winner triumphed in the Champions League and UEFA Super Cup with Real Madrid this year, he scored only one goal at the World Cup as Portugal went out in the group stage.
That solitary goal was not enough to make FIFA’s goal of the year shortlist.
Two nominees for the Puskas Award were World Cup goals: James Rodriguez’s volley for Colombia against Uruguay and Robin van Persie’s header for the Netherlands against Spain.
The shortlist was completed by an unfamiliar name with Ireland forward Stephanie Roche nominated for her goal for Peamount United, socred in front of a handful of fans in a domestic game against Wexford Youths.
The FIFA ceremony in Zurich will also give awards to the best coaches in men’s and women’s football.
The men’s list features Carlo Ancelotti, who led Real to its 10th European Cup in May, Germany’s World Cup winner Joachim Loew and Diego Simeone, who broke the dominance of Real and Barcelona to win the Spanish league with Atletico Madrid.
The women’s list is made up of Wolfsburg coach Ralf Kellermann, Maren Meinert, who won the under-20s 2015 World Cup with Germany, and Norio Sasaki, coach of Japan’s Asian Cup-winning side.
Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris