Cologne - As if taking on the reigning Bundesliga and DFB Cup holders in next week's 2014 Supercup wasn't enough of a daunting prospect, Borussia Dortmund will now have to get the better of Germany's Footballer of the Year in order to defend their title.
For the second time in his career, World Cup winner Manuel Neuer has been honoured with the prestigious award following a poll conducted by Germany's preeminent football magazine kicker, in which the FC Bayern München custodian received 144 of the total 701 votes.
"This award is an honour for me," Neuer told kicker. "I'm really suprised, although obviously aware that I put in some good performances. The fact that we won the World Cup this year gives the award added significance for me."
Four of Neuer's Bayern team-mates joined him in the top ten, the closest being Thomas Müller, in third place. Arjen Robben followed him in fourth place, while Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger finished fifth and sixth respectively. Neuer only just beat off the challenge of Marco Reus, who came second after picking up 135 of the votes despite missing the World Cup through injury.
'A special moment'
Meanwhile, the man who masterminded the Nationalmannschaft's 2014 FIFA World Cup triumph, Joachim Löw, has received the Coach of the Year award for the first time, a "great honour", according to the 54-year-old. "It's a special moment in my career as a coach, but it's also important to highlight that this is an award for every single coach in German football. I'm accepting this award on behalf of all of them."
Löw's 248 votes put him almost a hundred votes clear of the FC Augsburg coach Markus Weinzierl, who took second place with 152. He was voted in ahead of FC Bayern coach Pep Guardiola, who took third place with 89 votes, having won a domestic double in his first season in charge of the Bavarian giants.