Two scorers and a stopper: Trio in tight race for soccer’s top honour

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 honor, ending Argentina forward Messi’s three-year run as the world’s best player since FIFA and France Football magazine merged their awards. 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 honor. 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. Two-time Ballon D’Or winner Ronaldo, scored only one goal at the World Cup as Portugal went out in the group stage, but triumphed in the Champions League and UEFA Super Cup with Real Madrid this year. The winners, chosen by national team captains and coaches, plus selected journalists, will be announced on Jan 12.