Germany coach Joachim Löw has weighed in on the world’s best player debate, saying goalkeeper Manuel Neuer would have been his pick over Robert Lewandowski, had the 2020 Ballon d’Or gone ahead.
Neuer and Lewandowski were two of the standout performers of a Bayern team that conceded 50 and scored 159 goals en route to winning a Bundesliga, DFB Cup and UEFA Champions League treble.
Lewandowski, who accounted for 55 of Bayern’s total strikes in 2019/20, was the clear favourite to lift the Ballon d’Or, before organisers France Football confirmed in July that the trophy would not be awarded due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Löw, however, sees Bayern and Germany captain Neuer as an even worthier candidate.
“Manu's a class apart, really unbelievable," he said.
“He was a big reason why Bayern won the Champions League. Even in the semi-finals, he made two or three big saves. Bayern could have been 1-0 down or pegged back to 1-1 without him against Lyon and PSG.
"For me, he would be the world player of the year."
Löw makes a strong case for the man who the man who refined the role of sweeper-keeper during Germany's 2014 FIFA World Cup-winning campaign.
Neuer played in all but one of Bayern's 34 Bundesliga matches in 2019/20, conceding a league-low 31 goals and recording a league-high 15 shut-outs.
The 34-year-old chalked up an assist in Bayern's DFB Cup final win over Bayer Leverkusen, and boasted his team's third-best pass completion percentage across their triumphant Champions League campaign.
He has now won each competition eight, six and two times respectively.
“Manu was in superb form throughout the season," Löw continued. "The way he conducts himself, the calmness, his presence - you just have the feeling he’s always there."
Watch: Manuel Neuer's top 5 Bundesliga saves in 2019/20
Neuer won't be present for Germany's UEFA Nations League fixtures with Spain and Switzerland, but is expected to return to competitive action when Bayern begin their 2020/21 season with a DFB Cup first-round meeting away to minnows FC Düren on 15 September.
And while the Ballon d'Or won't be awarded in 2020, Neuer could still be named FIFA's Best Goalkeeper.
The two-time Germany Player of the Year - who was voted third in the 2014 Ballon d'Or race - finished as FIFA's second best behind Gianluigi Buffon in 2017.
He will also be considered the front-runner to claim a record-tying fifth IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper award, having picked up four in a row between 2013 and 2016.