Cologne - Manuel Neuer's candidacy for the 2014 FIFA Ballon d'Or has received more high-profile backing this week, with Diego Maradona and Andriy Shevchenko both adding their voices to growing support of the FC Bayern München and Germany custodian.
Neuer is on a three-man shortlist for the individual accolade, together with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who have shared the award between them for the past six years.
Should Neuer win, he would become the first ever goalkeeper to lift the prestigious trophy aloft, and according to Argentine legend Maradona he would be a worthy winner. "[I'm not going for] Messi or Ronaldo - my candidate is Neuer, who deserves it the most," Maradona told Radio Habana. "I think Ronaldo and Messi are taking time out."
Maradona's support has been echoed by Shevchenko, who won the award in 2004. "I watched him during the World Cup and, first of all, he’s from the winning team," the Ukrainian told FIFA.com. "He was fantastic. He wasn’t only playing like a traditional goalkeeper, but he was also the last man in defence. He was getting hold of the ball and helping his defenders a lot. He was not only a fantastic goalkeeper, but he was fantastic at everything."
The 2014 winner will be announced at a ceremony in Zürich on 12 January. Neuer was one of six FC Bayern München players listed among the initial 20-man selection, but was the only Reds star to make the final three-man shortlist in December.
Neuer would also become the first player from the Bundesliga to be crowned World Player of the Year. One of his predecessors in the Bayern goal, Oliver Kahn, went close to winning it in 2002, when he was beaten by Brazilian forward Ronaldo - the man who almost single-handedly beat Germany in the FIFA World Cup final that year. Neuer got the better of Messi in this year's final, however, as Mario Götze's extra-time strike earned Joachim Löw's charges a 1-0 victory in Rio de Janeiro.
See for yourself why Neuer has been nominated for the Ballon d'Or with this video, courtesy of the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel.