IN CASE Manuel Neuer might be sad that not he, but rather Cristiano Ronaldo, was chosen as 2014 World Footballer of the Year, my advice is that there are many places along the way in life where you can slip and fall.
I also wanted to be there in Zurich – even if only as an honorary guest – when the award was announced. But I had been skiing and struck a sheet of ice and fell. So I ended up with Bayern Munich team doctor, Dr Müller-Wohlfahrt, instead of in a comfortable seat in Zurich.
With all due respect for the accomplishments of Manuel Neuer, without whom Germany would not have become world champions and who has newly interpreted and invented the offensive style of play for the goalkeeper, the two players who finished ahead of him in the voting, Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, were simply too strong.
Both as characters and as footballers. What they do is unique, above all in front of the opponents’ goal. For example, Ronaldo last year scoring 13 times in 12 Champions League matches.
This is exactly what fans want to see – not somebody who thwarts goals, but rather those who score them, the goal-getters people can cheer for.
Prior to the World Footballer of the Year awards, which in 1990 and 1991 went to Lothar Matthaeus, there was only the European Footballer of the Year.
And only once – in 1963 – was it a goalkeeper, Russia’s great Lev Yashin. I, in my role as libero or sweeper either behind or out front of the defenders, also won it only twice, in 1972 and 1976. In my most successful year, 1974, I won three titles: with Bayern Munich the Bundesliga and the European Cup (the predecessor of today’s Champions League), as well as the World Cup with West Germany.
But it was Dutch football king Johan Cruyff, with his offensive style of play, who came first in voting that year. I was second. Voting can be so unpredictable.
Neuer might find consolation in the fact that it is already a great honour to have been chosen third ahead of Bayern’s Dutch striker Arjen Robben, whom many had even regarded as a favourite before the voting.
Just like Messi, the way that Ronaldo goes about trying to score while sending a clear message about winning, is unique.
Many people might complain that between the two of them, the world’s top football honour has gone to them seven years in a row – three for Ronaldo, four for Messi. Since Ronaldo is still just 29 and Messi 27 years old, they will be the favourites again next year, even though it might be hoped that some other player could establish himself up along with them.
Unless Neuer achieves some miracle, they in the long run might get competition only from offensive players. I have had contact a few times with the Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Paris St Germain.
Similar to what is said about Ronaldo, he appears to many to be arrogant – even though he is actually a really likeable, nice lad. This applies both to Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic.
One should not be fooled – young players these days are getting more self-assured with their rhetorical skills. Back in early days, a player might have seen a television camera once a month. Today, it’s at least ten a day.
From a German point of view, the awards ceremonies in Zurich were a great success.
Wolfburg’s play-maker Nadine Kessler and trainer Ralf Kellermann won the honours as best player and manager in women’s football, while Joachim Loew, trainer of the World Cup champions Germany, won as the best coach.
With Neuer, Philipp Lahm, and Toni Kroos, three German players made it into the selection as the world’s best team.
All this underscores the current dominance of German football, as well as making the case that with this World Cup champion, it was the entire united team that stood out. Many of the players played very well. But the top star was their goalie. – (GMS)