Manuel Neuer has kept 18 clean sheets last season as FC Bayern München cruised to an historic treble
Manuel Neuer has kept 18 clean sheets last season as FC Bayern München cruised to an historic treble

The Ballon d'Or 2013 contenders: Manuel Neuer

Munich - There’s an old saying that a football team is only as good as its goalkeeper. If that particular adage rings true, it is little surprise that is one of the six FC Bayern München players - and seven Bundesliga stars - nominated for the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2013 award.

Room for improvement?

Since joining the current European Champions from FC Schalke 04 in 2011, the 27-year-old stopper has gone from strength to strength, breaking one record after another en route to Bayern's historic quadruple last season and beyond.

Neuer conceded just 18 goals in Germany's top flight in 2012/13, breaking the record previously held by former FCB and Germany legend Oliver Kahn (21 in 2007/08), as well as keeping an incredible 18 clean sheets.

Although by Neuer's own admission winning titles is far more important than breaking records, the Gelsenkirchen-born custodian reached another personal milestone in September when he became the youngest ever keeper to reach 100 Bundesliga clean sheets. "I wasn't counting," he admitted afterwards, modestly saying: "There is still room for improvement from me."

No. 1 for club and country

Neuer's words are unlikely to go down well with strikers up and down the country and across Europe. English Premier League giants Chelsea FC for example have already suffered directly at the hands of the Bayern stopper this season: Neuer managed to keep out Romelu Lukaku's decisive spot-kick in the final against the West-London team to hand Pep Guardiola his first title as Bayern coach.

Neuer played every minute of Germany's successful 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign and, barring serious injury, he is certain to retain his place between the sticks in Brazil next year. With Bayern playing as they are, not many would bet against Neuer collecting a few more personal accolades before football's showcase event gets under way. Perhaps this year's Ballon d’Or award will be one of them.

The Bundesliga's other men in contention for the Ballon d'Or 2013:

Arjen Robben

Thomas Müller

Philipp Lahm

Franck Ribery

Robert Lewandowski

Bastian Schweinsteiger