Neuer: Ballon d'Or nod special for a goalkeeper

The Bayern Munich and Germany star is hoping to buck the trend and become only the second goalkeeper in history to be named as the world player of the year

Bayern Munich star Manuel Neuer says it is “special” to have been nominated for the Ballon d’Or as it is harder for goalkeepers to win individual awards.

Last week, the Germany international was named in the final three for the prize, alongside Barcelona star Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, ensuring he will be the highest-finishing keeper in the running for the award since Oliver Kahn finished as runner-up 2002.

Messi and Ronaldo have scored over 100 goals between them this year and Neuer says it is inevitable that attackers will stand out that much more than the players tasked with stopping them.

“As a goalkeeper, it is something quite special. To reach [the last three] makes me very proud,” he told Bild.

“Here you can see how hard it is for a goalkeeper. What’s mostly left after a match? The scenes in front of the goal where the attackers are the highlights of the play.
“But doing the spectacular is not particularly important to me. I just want to play for my team.”

After winning the German double, the 28-year-old helped inspire his country to the World Cup earlier this year, earning Fifa’s Golden Glove and a place in the team of the tournament.

The former Schalke man made quite an impression in Brazil with his propensity to rush from his goal-line in order to snuff out enemy attacks – an approach he says is vital to his club side’s style.

“With Bayern we want a lot of ball possession and to control the play so I operate sometimes like the 11th outfield player.

“Thus I am included a lot into the build-up play and have a lot of touches of the ball. I know that I often take risks, but it is always for the purposes of the team.”

Neuer is hoping to become only the second goalkeeper in history to win the prize after the Soviet Union’s Lev Yashin took the gong in 1963.

Ronaldo, Ramos, Ancelotti, Guardiola & Mourinho drop one for Christmas

The Madrid coach is accompanied by two of his illustrious colleagues, as well as two of his pupils at the Santiago Bernabeu

The Catalan traditional Caganer – which translates as ‘defecator’ – has been given a celebrity make-over in time for this year’s festive season, with Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti, Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo all making an appearance.

The miniature figurines depict a crouching person with pants around ankles, to symbolise fertilising the ground.

Leading specialist manufacturers present several new figures, including the aforementioned coaching trio, the Real Madrid defender and the Fifa Ballon d’Or winner.

The Famous Fecal Festive Forty are all designed and handmade at the Torroella clay workshop and completed in cooperation with a number of organisations working with people with disabilities.

Since the eighteenth century, the tradition of the Catalan nativity scenes has featured the ubiquitous Caganer. A beloved figure who, it was believed, led to good fortune, luck, health, happiness and peace of mind – as well as fertile crops for the following year.

None are intended as a joke, but a tribute.





Guardiola: I'm a big, big fan of Bayer Leverkusen

The Catalan has revealed that he is a huge admirer of Rodger Schmidt’s side and is particularly concerned by their dead-ball specialist, Hakan Calhanoglu

Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola has talked up the threat posed by Bayer Leverkusen to his side’s unbeaten Bundesliga record ahead of Saturday’s showdown at the Allianz Arena.

The Bavarians have won 10 of their 13 games to date and sit seven points clear of second-placed Wolfsburg, with Leverkusen three points further back in third.

However, Guardiola has the utmost respect for Roger Schmidt’s side and is expecting a fearsome contest.

“I am big, big fan of this team, their coach and their style of play,” the Catalan told reporters at his pre-game media conference on Friday.

“They have done very well so far with their great ability to press and I’m sure that they will come here to play. We will have little time to think on the ball.

“This game is very important for us in terms of the Bundesliga.

“If both sides play attacking football then it will be a very good game – and we want that!”

Guardiola is not only warning his side against complacency, but also against the danger of giving away silly free kicks within the range of Bayer’s dead-ball specialist Hakan Calhanoglu.

“He has enormous quality,” the former Barcelona boss said. “He is one of the best free-kick takers in the Bundesliga, which is why we have to keep the game away from our box.

“This is going to be a top, top game and we will need to be at our best.”

Guardiola also confirmed that he has no fresh injury concerns ahead of the game, which is scheduled to kick off at 18:30CET.

Reina happy to play understudy to Bayern Munich star Neuer

The 32-year-old says he knew what he was getting into with his career seemingly stagnating in Bavaria

Bayern Munich goalkeeper Pepe Reina has revealed his happiness at living a life of obscurity in Germany and has no problem with his role as understudy to Manuel Neuer.

The Spain international moved to Bayern in the summer from Liverpool after a season-long loan spell at Napoli in 2013-14.

He joined knowing he would struggle to usurp Neuer from the starting XI with the Germany international regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world – a status enhanced by his shortlisting for the 2014 Ballon d’Or alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

At 32 years of age, Reina could be forgiven for seeking first-team football but the former Villarreal shot-stopper is content with his lot despite not playing a single minute of first-team action for Pep Guardiola’s men.

He told Goal: “I knew what I was in for. The club told me I would be his [Neuer’s] substitute. I have honoured that from the beginning and it has not changed.

“I do what I do: train hard and I am ready when the team needs me.”

Reina admits life in Bavaria is less hassled than on Merseyside or in Naples.

“It is very quiet, most of the folks do not even recognize me. A football player and his family are respected here. The culture led me here, particularly the football culture.”

In terms of a comparison between the Bundesliga and the Premier League, he added: “They are very similar. Regarding the organisation they are dead level, both very reputable.”

Matthaus: Reus should join Bayern Munich

The Bundesliga champions have riled their rivals with their public pursuit of the 25-year-old but the World Cup-winner feels the Germany international should move

Lothar Matthaus is hoping that Marco Reus becomes the latest Borussia Dortmund star to end up at Bayern Munich, arguing that it would be the best outcome for both the player and German football.

Relations between the two Bundelsiga sides have become increasingly strained in recent seasons, with Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski both having left Signal Iduna Park for the Allianz Arena over the past 18 months.

Dortmund have now been enraged by Bayern’s public pursuit of Reus, whose contract, which expires in 2017, allegedly contains a buy-out clause that will drop to €25 million next year.

But Matthaus feels his former club’s interest in the 25-year-old attacker is wholly understandable given the advancing years of some of their star players, and admitted that he would like to see the Germany international move to Bavaria.

“The important thing is he stays in the Bundesliga,” the 59-year-old told reporters at a media event hosted by Sky. “It would be a pity if he left for Spain or England.

“Uli Hoeness once said that it was Bayern’s duty to buy every German national team player. That’s why I was amazed by the sale of Toni Kroos [to Real Madrid] to buy Xabi Alonso, who is nine years older. For the future, Kroos might have been the better choice.

“Bayern Munich has to think about the future and they’re doing that: Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben – all of their performance levels will drop a little bit in the next two or three years, so stability can get lost.

“I am therefore convinced that Bayern has to look for younger players to fill the voids these players will leave someday.

“If I was in charge at Bayern I would think about [signing Reus]. With Reus this is not about economic reasons; this is about the chance to win titles.

“Maybe success in Dortmund is more emotional. But, at the end of the day, nobody is ever asked which title was more emotional.”

While reigning Bundesliga champions Bayern are riding high at the top of the table once again, Dortmund are rock bottom after a dismal start to the season.

The loss of last season’s top scorer, Lewandowski, has hit BVB particularly hard, with summer signings Ciro Immobile and Adrian Ramos having thus far failed to prove adequate replacements for the prolific Pole.

It has also been claimed that Dortmund are suffering from something of a World Cup hangover but Matthaus feels that their poor form is more down to their poor dealings in the transfer market and an ensuing lack of confidence.

“Ciro Immobile and Adrian Ramos can’t replace Robert Lewandowksi; that’s clear,” the former Germany captain stated.

“Dortmund invested a lot of money. They’re saying, ‘The new players are good; they only need time.’ But you don’t have time in football.

“I was a fan of Dortmund’s style in recent years, but now you can barely compare it. The confidence is missing; the joy. But it will come back.

“Nobody in Dortmund wants sympathy. Borussia has gotten into an avalanche which they thought they could stop any week.

“But the players could not stop it. I am convinced they will win some points soon.

“The World Cup can’t be the problem. Of course it was exhausting and the holidays were shorter. But the player’s success should have been a huge motivation for them.

“I experienced it myself, in 1990. My best year was the one after the World Cup – despite the short holidays.

“It was like coming into the stadium as a gladiator to destroy the opponents. That’s why I think the World Cup is only an easy explanation.

“Dortmund did not expect a situation like this. Neither the bosses or the players. Now they are confronted with something there were not prepared for. That’s why they are craving the winter break.”

Indeed, Matthaus is in no doubt that Jurgen Klopp’s men can turn their season around in the new year.

“They can use the winter break to work on things, mentally, and then get out of the relegation zone,” he added.

“A place in the top nine is possible; a spot in Europa League, too.

“Except for Bayern, no team [in the Bundesliga] is stable. If they have a good spring, European football is a realistic target.”