Neuer deserves Ballon d'Or but won't win – Dino Zoff

The legendary former shot-stopper has backed Bayern’s No.1 but – like when he lost out to Johan Cruyff in the 1970s – thinks one of his outfield competitors will win

Italy legend Dino Zoff believes Manuel Neuer deserves Fifa’s Ballon d’Or for 2014, but thinks Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi will take home the trophy.

On Monday it was announced that the Germany and Bayern No.1 would join Ronaldo and Messi in the final three, hoping to break their six-year duopoly of the prize.

Zoff can empathise with the competition Neuer has in the form of the Real Madrid and Barcelona forwards, comparing this year’s battle to 40 years ago when he was the runner up to Dutch superstar Johan Cruyff.

“Neuer’s good, he deserves the Ballon d’Or right enough,” he added. “But it is difficult for him to win. He has absolute phenomena like Ronaldo and Messi to compete against, I do not think he can win.

“It happened to me, too: I was in 1973 I was a nominee for the Ballon d’Or. But so was Cruyff and, of course, he won.”

The ex-Juventus goalkeeper and manager cast his eye over the successes that his former club have had over the past few years, winning three Scudetto in a row, and he praised them for using their financial clout and behind-the-scenes work to bag silverware.

“Juve triumph because they have a good team with solid organisation behind them,” Zoff added.

“They also have financial power – maybe not like that of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and a few English teams, but it’s not bad at all for them. And winning Serie A three years in a row is not easy.”

Zoff, who remains the oldest-ever winner of a World Cup after Italy’s 1982 win, also light-heartedly suggested he’s not yet reached the stage where his nickname of The Monument of Italian Football sits right with him.

“I do not feel a monument,” the 72-year-old continued. “That’s partly because the monuments are the favourite targets of pigeons…”

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