'Ronaldo is unique – but Neuer has a chance'

Lothar Matthaus believes the Ballon d’Or is between the Bayern goalkeeper and Real Madrid forward and claims Arjen Robben has had a better year than Lionel Messi

The Fifa Ballon d’Or is a straight duel between Manuel Neuer and Cristiano Ronaldo, according to former Germany captain Lothar Matthaus.

The Real Madrid forward remains the favourite to retain the prize ahead of Monday’s gala in Zurich, ahead of the Bayern Munich goalkeeper and Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

Matthaus, who led Germany to World Cup glory in 1990, believes Neuer’s exploits in Brazil last summer have given him an excellent chance of lifting the trophy – but acknowledges Ronaldo’s “unique” form.

“Neuer certainly has a realistic chance because he has reshaped goalkeeping. I would say he’s almost reinvented it. For me, it’s a duel between Ronaldo and Neuer,” he told Bild.

“Winning the World Cup should be above everything else and the triumph in Rio is an advantage for Neuer. But then you see Ronaldo won the Champions League and scores goals like they’re from an assembly line.

“Ronaldo’s performances are unique. The only things that compare are Messi during his best spell and Brazilian Ronaldo in the early 2000s.”

Matthaus does not believe World Cup Golden Ball winner Messi is likely to win, however, and feels the Argentina captain is fortunate to have made the final three.

“With all due respect, Messi has not had a good 2014. There were other players who were better. Arjen Robben is missing from the top three, as are one or two other world champions.”

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