That gong went to Real Madrid CF's Cristiano Ronaldo, but it was still a hugely successful day for German football, with three Bundesliga stars, including Neuer, named in the FIFPro Team of the Year 2014 and Joachim Löw walking away with the Coach of the Year award.
Scroll down to relive the 2014 FIFA Ballon d'Or ceremony as it happened...
23:45 And that brings an end to our live text coverage of the 2014 FIFA Ballon d'Or gala. Not the end result we all hoped for, but a stellar night for German football nonetheless, with three FC Bayern München players making the 2014 FIFPro World XI, a World Coach of the Year accolade for Joachim Löw and, of course, a top-three finish for Manuel Neuer in the race for the Ballon d'Or. He deserved more, but there's no reason why he, or indeed another Bundesliga player, won't make the podium this time next year. We are talking about the league of the world champions after all. Until then, we bid you all a fond bis bald!
23:27 Earlier tonight, Sky Deutschland pundit and former Germany international Christoph Metzelder congratulated both Neuer and Ronaldo, but not before making the point that not even 'CR7' could get past 'SuperManu' in Group G's opener at the World Cup. Germany won that one 4-0, remember.
23:06 One of Manuel Neuer's understudies at international level, Hannover 96 and Germany stopper Ron-Robert Zieler, shared Lahm's view: "I really wanted it for Manu because he was exceptional the world over in the past year. He set new boundaries, especially at the World Cup. Still, respect and compliments to Cristiano Ronaldo, who's a fantastic footballer."
22:55 Bayern skipper Philipp Lahm weighs into the post-ceremony debate, saying: "It's a shame. We all wanted it for Manuel [Neuer]. "He's put his own stamp on goalkeeping in recent years."
Und wenn du nach Hause kommst, bist du nicht Weltfußballer, sondern @Manuel_Neuer: Weltmeister, Welttorhüter und Weltfußballer der Herzen!— Hans Sarpei (@HansSarpei) January 12, 2015
22:34 Toni Kroos was named alongside Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm and Arjen Robben in the FIFPro World XI following his performances for former club FC Bayern, Germany and current employers Real Madrid CF over the course of 2014. The 25-year-old was pleased to see Los Blancos team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo retain the Ballon d'Or, but didn't see Neuer coming in third: "Manuel finishing third is definitely a surprise and a bit undeserved. I thought it'd be close between Ronaldo and Manu. Manu deserved it, he was the best goalkeeper, but Cristiano also earned it as the best outfield player."
22:24 Former FC Bayern head coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who was in Zürich to present Joachim Löw with the World Coach of the Year prize believes Manuel Neuer's chance to be crowned the world's best footballer could still come. "You have to accept the result," said the retired strategist after the ceremony. "Attacking players may be more entertaining to watch as they score goals. I had my fingers crossed for Neuer, but maybe time wasn’t ripe for a goalkeeper to win it. Neuer can give it another shot this year, though."
Herzlichen Glückwunsch auch an Joachim #Löw zur Wahl des Welt-Trainers 2014!— Basti Schweinsteiger (@BSchweinsteiger) January 12, 2015
Unsere beste Zeit kommt noch, @Manuel_Neuer! Glückwunsch zu einem herausragenden Jahr, Deutschlands Nr. 1!— Benedikt Höwedes (@BeneHoewedes) January 12, 2015
20:36 Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is in no doubt Neuer deserved to make the final three: "It's great that, after Franck Ribery, a Bayern player is seen as one of the best three players in the world for the second successive year. We're incredibly proud of Manuel Neuer. It's confirmation of his outstanding performances [after] a superb year in which he played a brilliant World Cup and set a new benchmark for goalkeeping. There's no doubt he deserved it - even to win it."
20:24 It seems there's nothing that can take the shine off what's been an unparalleled year of success for Manuel Neuer: "I leave here with a smile. It's been a great day for me. The whole of 2014 was unbelievable, we were able to celebrate so many successes. It'll stay in my memory forever."
20:02Manuel Neuer finishes third in the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2014
The greatest prize eludes Manuel Neuer but it's still been a sensational year for him.
20:00 Now it's time for the big one, and that's quite an entrance for Monsieur Thierry Henry, who recently retired from playing football. The Frenchman is there to present the FIFA Ballon d'Or 2014 award to one of Neuer, Messi or Ronaldo.
19:56 Nadine Kessler is named the Women's World Player of the Year. Congratulations!
19:53 Now it's Manuel Neuer's turn to come to the stage again, and he is greeted with a message from Pep Guardiola. "Manu anticipates everything and dominates everything. Come back here - we need you - but enjoy your night!" Then there is a very special message from none other than NBA basketball star and German native Dirk Nowitzki: "Good luck Manu. I've followed your career for a long time and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you!"
19:49 Christian Karembeu, a former World Cup winner with France in 1998, is next onto the stage. After a short message urging the importance of cleanliness amidst the spread of ebola, he prepares to reveal the winner of the Puskas Award for the goal of the year. The contenders are Stephanie Roche, James Rodriguez and Robin van Persie. And the winner is James Rodriguez, for that stunning volley against Uruguay in the World Cup.
19:43 Abby Wambach is invited up by Kate Abdo as the second contender for the women's best player, before a short musical interlude. The other contenders, Nadine Kessler of Wolfsburg and Brazilian superstar Marta of FC Rosengard, follows her.
19:25 After a round of appreciation for the FIFA volunteers, Barcelona coach Luis Enrique is invited to the stage. He sends his regards and best wishes to Lionel Messi, before former Argentina international, and one of Messi's idols Pablo Aimar does the same va video link. "I still love playing the game as much as I did when I was a kid."
19:08 Now it's time for the award for the coach of the year in the women's game, and the winner is the man behind VfL Wolfsburg's all-conquerting team, Ralf Kellerman.
19:03 We're getting closer to finding out the winner of the main prize - the Ballon d'Or. Up first to the stage again as last year's winner is Cristiano Ronaldo, scorer of 61 goals in 2014 and winner of the Champions League and Spanish Cup. "The main trophy we needed to win last season was the Champions League and it was a fantastic moment." Rafael Nadal even chimes in via video link: "Good luck and congratulations on a great career Cristiano!"
18:56 The next award is the FIFA Presidential award, and it's awarded to Japanese journalist Hiroshi Kagawa, after a lifetime of writing about football to promote the game in his homeland. Well done that man.
18:46 And now the strikers: Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Bayern's Arjen Robben. The Dutchman's favourite goal? "Without a doubt the winning goal in the 2013 Champions League final against Dortmund!"
18.43 The three midfielders now: Angel Di Maria of Manchester United, Toni Kroos of Real Madrid (and formerly of Bayern) and Andres Iniesta of Barcelona.
18:41 Then it's the four defenders to be announced, and one of them is a familiar face: FC Bayern's Philipp Lahm! Accompanying him in the back four are Paris Saint-Germain duo Thiago Silva and David Luiz and Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos.
18:38 Before the Puskas Award for the goal of the year and the Ballon d'Ors are dished out, there's the small matter of the FIFPro World XI 2014. Unsurprisingly, Manuel Neuer is the goalkeeper of this particular dream team. Congratulations Supermanu!
18:29 Kate Abdo then returns to the stage to bring video of some of the highlights of last year's footballing action. Manuel Neuer, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neuer again are all in there, as are many other stars.
18:33 Kate Abdo invites the six contenders for the FIFA World Player of the Year in men's and women's football: Manuel Neuer, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and Nadine Kessler, Abby Wambach and Marta - to take to the stage to be presented to the audience. Two of them will be back up there very soon to receive the greatest individual honour in professional football.
No retrospective look at the action of 2014 would be complete without returning to that night of 13 July in Rio de Janeiro when Germany beat Argentina to lift a fourth World Cup. Sends shivers down the spine every time...
18:22 After an introduction from presenter Kate Abdo, FIFA President Sepp Blatter takes to the stage. In his opening address he looks back on a hugely successful 2014 FIFA World Cup - mentioning, of course, the victorious German team - and an eventful year in world history. Echoing the late Nelson Mandela, he says: "Let's celebrate humanity through football."
18:15 - Ceremony begins
"It's such an honour to be among the final three for the FIFA Ballon d'Or award. I don't want to speculate whether I will be the lucky winner, but what ever happens it's been a fantastic achievement to make the final shortlist as a goalkeeper."
Around 30 minutes to go until the 2014 FIFA Ballon d'Or ceremony gets underway!
Speaking outside the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, FC Bayern captain and former Germany skipper Philipp Lahm has explained why his team-mate should win the award ahead of Ronaldo and Messi. "He's won the World Cup and produced some outstanding performances throughout the year. Surely it follows that he should win the Ballon d'Or award."
17:30 CET - One hour until ceremony begins
Former Bayern and Borussia Dortmund head coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who will be presenting the award for World Coach of the Year in Zurich later on, has backed Neuer to win the best player gong. "He’s a modern goalkeeper who likes to get hold of the ball and play as a sweeper behind the defence," said the 66-year-old. "There's never been a keeper like Neuer before. He's elevated the goalkeeping position to a new dimension, so he’s in with a good chance of winning."
The man himself has been speaking at the pre-gala press conference ahead of the main ceremony in Zurich, which gets underway at 18:30 CET. Sitting alongside fellow nominees Messi and Ronaldo, Neuer spoke about Bayern's objectives for the 2014/15 season. "We want to go all the way in all three competitions," he said. "The Champions League final is obviously being held in Berlin this year. That's a huge incentive."
Current Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger says of Neuer: "He's the best keeper in the world - I don't think anyone's in any doubt about that - and he had a brilliant year, winning the World Cup. I think he'll win and I'm definitely rooting for him."
15:30 CET - Three hours until ceremony begins
@Manuel_Neuer - Komm als Weltfußballer zurück nach Doha!— Thomas Müller (@esmuellert_) January 12, 2015
"Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have scored 40 or 50 goals per season over a number a years, but Manuel's performances last year for me and for his club were just outstanding, and he reinterpreted the role of a goalkeeper. I think he deserves the award."
4 - Under Jogi Löw Germany have reached at least the semi-finals at every big tournament (Euro 2008, 2012, WC 2010, 2014). Master #BallondOr— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) January 12, 2015
Joachim Löw is up against Diego Simeone of Club Atletico de Madrid and Carlo Ancelotti of Real Madrid CF for the coach of the year award, and the 54-year-old is in with a great chance after leading Germany to a fourth World Cup back in the summer.
His two rivals have scored for fun this season, but Neuer's statistics make for some incredibly reading. The former Schalke man enjoyed an average of 45 touches in his 62 appearances for club and country in 2013, made 98 saves at 2.5 per game and kept 24 clean sheets in 44 appearances for Bayern. He also redefined the role of the goalkeeper as an 11th outfield player and was the rock on which Germany's World Cup triumph was built. Not bad at all.
Thomas Müller thinks Neuer taking the Ballon d'Or would not only reward a World Cup but also provide a welcome change of pace after Messi and Ronaldo, who have won the last six awards between them. "The fact Manu’s won the World Cup is a plus for him, and it would be boring to have Ronaldo win again. If that’s the case, you’d have to ask yourself why they bother having these events. Next year they might as well just send the winner the results in the post.”
13:30 CET - Five hours until ceremony begins
So how do the achievements of the three contenders stack up? Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo both scored bucket loads in 2014, with the latter winning the UEFA Champions League. Being a goalkeeper, Neuer's achievements are somewhat harder to quantify, but he helped Bayern to the double and was arguably Germany's standout player in a triumphant FIFA World Cup campaign. Achievements don't come much greater than that.
11:30 CET - Seven hours until ceremony begins
Figures from all over the footballing world have backed Neuer to win the Ballon d'Or tonight. Giovanni Trapattoni, winner of the Bundesliga with FC Bayern in 1997m says of the current World No1 keeper: "He's invincible. He could also play as a striker. It would be something different if a goalkeeper gets voted FIFA World Player of the Year."
Here are a bunch of reasons why Neuer could and should win the greatest prize of them all this evening...
The Ballon d'Or ceremony honours among others, the coach of the year, goal of the year and the standout player from the women's game in 2014. However, the main event is who will win the award for the best player in men's association football. Manuel Neuer was a Bundesliga, DFB Cup and FIFA World Cup winner in 2014 and could be come the first ever goalkeeper to win the award. He's up against stiff competition in Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, but here's why he should win.