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 honour, 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 honour 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 honour.
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.