£150m? Why wonderkid Haaland isn’t even worth £70m

Move over Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo- Erling Haaland is the new kid in town and soon every kid in the playground will be donning his shirt. Which new club that will be is still anyone’s guess but Haaland has taken the headlines by storm and it seems that over the past two weeks everyone has been talking about the Norwegian player who is still only 20.

The hype seems genuine enough, Haaland scores goals, but he is tall, huge in fact, and is quite a presence and his speed is lightning quick, his current club Borussia Dortmund seem to have found a gem of a player.

Haaland has already scored 124 goals in all competitions in his career and this season alone has 33 goals from 33 games. It is stunning and certainly reminds one of Messi and Ronaldo’s records. In short Dortmund are not going to keep him and he is certainly going to be transferred this summer.

In truth at 20 he could probably do with another season in the Bundesliga, but here’s the catch- he can leave next summer for £68m, that is stipulated in his buyout contract. Now that would still be a tidy profit for Dortmund of almost £50m, but of course they want more.

If Haaland was to leave this summer it is possible that he could go for upwards of £150m, that’s the figure that has been talked about. The likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City and PSG may just be able to convince their purse strings and in some cases their banks to hand over that kind of money for a player who may well light up world football for the next 15 years.

But let’s face it, it is a gamble.

The Bundesliga with all due respect isn’t the highest bar to judge oneself. True the current European champions are Bayern Munich, but they are almost a one off. Like PSG who reached last year’s final too- it doesn’t mean that particular league is strong. That isn’t to say German football isn’t strong, but currently one would have to question.

Take Timo Werner at Chelsea who was scoring goals for fun in the Bundesliga, when Chelsea were able to snap up the German international for around £60m it looked like a bargain. However Werner has had a poor debut season with the Blues, and quite frankly his confidence looks shot. He may improve next season, then again…. The Premier League, La Liga and Serie A are simply at a higher level, and you can get found out.

It doesn’t seem like Haaland will have any troubles adjusting to a different league but when prices of £150m are being quoted doesn’t someone have to say, well, hang on a second?

What has Haaland proved so far, yes he looks good, yes he can score goals, but he hasn’t done anything significant yet. True he’s young but how about make a mark- because all of the other greats have done so.

Imagine for example in the 2nd leg of Dortmund’s quarter final Champions League tie against Manchester City Haaland makes the difference and helps knock City out of the competition. That would be quite a marker to lay down. No one is expecting Haaland to join his new club loaded with trophies in his resume just yet, but perhaps one would like to see some showing in a big match first.

It is why in reality Haaland is only worth his buyout clause he hasn’t really been able to make that difference not to a team yet, not like Kylian Mbappe for example, although of course Mbappe is in a better team.

Dortmund of course will understand that if they sold Haaland for £70m one day he could be sold on for £200m plus and they don’t want to miss out, that is the business of football. Some players simply are not worth what clubs are prepared to offer.

Ideally everyone should be happy with a smaller fee, it’s still profit for his original club but Dortmund will go for the top price, and honestly you can’t blame them for that. As for Haaland the truth of how great he will be is only going to be revealed next season at his new club.

 

Superstar Martinez could be heading for Barcelona as Inter approach Aguero

Name who has been the best player for Inter this season as they try to win their first scudetto in 11 years and most people would say Romelu Lukaku. But Lautaro Martinez wouldn’t be too far behind after a stunning season.

The 23 year old Argentinian has really impressed this season and even last summer he was starting to attract the mega clubs of European football. The fact that Inter should win Serie A this season is spearheaded by Martinez’s fantastic statistics for Antonio Conte’s side.

Martinez has scored 14 league goals so far from 27 games and has 16 overall from 37. He is projected to be the next star of world football when it comes to strikers. One could suggest that Martinez is the type of player that started slow in his career, if we compare him to Kylian Mbappe but Martinez has all of the qualities to become just as good as Mbappe and perhaps even beyond. In short Inter have quite a star on their hands.

It is thought that the likes of Bayern Munich, PSG, Manchester City and Barcelona are very interested in taking the player and one would have to wonder how much for? The pandemic has brought prices down for now, but one would still presume that Martinez’s price tag could be between £100-150m. Can Inter afford not to sell at that price?

Manchester City are on the look out for a striker as veteran forward Sergio Aguero has announced that he will be leaving the club after 10 years playing at the Etihad. Obviously a straight swap is out of the question but City might be able to offer Aguero plus £120m, and that could be tempting for Inter. True Aguero is pushing on for age now but he is still sharp and alert and would score goals in Serie A.

There have been rumours that Inter have been looking at Aguero for his quality and experience although the one drawback is the amount of times he has been injured over the years. Still Aguero leaves the Premier League having scored the most goals ever for an overseas player and that could seal the deal with Inter.

PSG seem to have bottomless pockets and that would be quite a capture for the French champions who could, in effect, over the most money to Inter.

However one would have to suspect that if Martinez was going to leave the San Siro it would be to go to the Camp Nou and link up with his countryman Lionel Messi. Barcelona still want Neymar to return but surely going for youth would be the correct move for the Catalan club.

As for Martinez he may be tempted to stay at Inter and try and deliver the club the Champions League. Ultimately though the final decision will come down to Inter and if big money is offered this will be a huge test for the club who will probably be forced to sell.

As for this season, Serie A took a break for the past 10 days due to the international games. But Inter resume their title challenge away to Bologna on Saturday. Presently Inter are 6 points ahead of 2nd placed Milan and have a game in hand.

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Why didn’t Manchester United’s Paul Pogba believe he was already at a huge club?

Early on Monday morning, on a weekend following another Manchester United comeback as they beat West Ham 3-1, Mino Raiola dropped the news: Paul Pogba wants to leave Manchester United.

It was news and it wasn’t news, because anyone who has followed football for the past few years could see that Pogba wanted out almost the moment he stepped back in at Old Trafford. Pogba isn’t the type of person who could play poker successfully, he can’t hide his body language and his despair almost an dis-attachment in his face was there for all to see for a long time.

It could well be the right time for Pogba to leave Manchester United and the Frenchman would have spent five seasons at the club by next summer. But it wasn’t the right time to announce it. Pogba’s agent Raiola said that the player wanted to leave the club in the summer, right before one of United’s biggest games of their season, their Champions League match against RB Leipzig. The club went on to lose that match 3-2, and the irony of course is that Pogba scored.

The timing though feels like a lack of respect for the club and its values, why did Pogba’s agent come out with the news then? Why not wait at least until the week after, after the Manchester derby. Would it have been that hard to do?

But another question must surface and that is why didn’t Pogba believe that Manchester United are a huge club? Why couldn’t he understand that it might not get any better than being at United? True United haven’t been the same since Sir Alex Ferguson retired but they have still maintained an air of quality, and players from around the world are still happy to sign for the club knowing that the Red Devils are one of the biggest clubs in the world.

Could it be that Pogba transferred from Juventus and saw the old lady and Serie A as simply better in every department? Could he believe that he was therefore taking a step down when he re-joined United? When you analyse his performances it does come across like this. Of course his obscene fee of £89m doesn’t help matters but at the same time the price tag isn’t Pogba’s fault. He probably wasn’t worth half of that but that is the nature of the football business.

In hindsight United would have done good business had they sold Pogba just after the 2018 World Cup where, with France he won. Pogba was electrifying in the knock-out stages with his pace and power. Indeed he produced in 2 weeks with France what he couldn’t do in five years with United. But at the World Cup Pogba seemed like a man possessed, like he had a mission, and he did. But with United had he kept to this theory he could have helped land United a title in his time at the club and gone down as a club legend.

The truth is that Pogba’s time at United will be more remembered as a simple footnote, which is a tragedy in itself given what quality the player has in his locker. The problem with Pogba is that it doesn’t matter where he goes next, the team will receive Pogba, the player that shows flashes of brilliance, the player that gives 100%, the player that raises his voice above others in the dressing room and gets the team hyped and ready for the game ahead, but all of this happens in 2 games per 10, and that is his problem in a nutshell.

Pogba’s future could be linked to PSG, a return to France and with a club who look guaranteed to win trophies could fit Pogba fine. Real Madrid have been linked with the midfielder for some time, but maybe they will take a rain check if they were to look at his overall form. Barcelona’s era is ending and they have a lack of funds so they won’t be a player. Other choices could see a return to Juventus or maybe somewhere like AC Milan who have improved and are currently in 1st position in Serie A.

Pogba is going to leave United at the end of the season this looks absolutely certain now. Fans knew it was going to happen, but it seems when it does Pogba may not get the goodbye he could have deserved and on reflection his transfer to United feels like a wasted moment for both parties.

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Liverpool & Bayern Munich among bookies favorites to win the Champions League

Liverpool and Bayern Munich are among the favorites to win the 2020/21 Champions League but are expected to face competition from the likes of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

After winning their sixth European Cup with victory over Tottenham in 2019, Liverpool ran away with the Premier League title last season having finished a whopping 18 points clear of second-placed Manchester City.

Jurgen Klopp’s men saw their impressive start to the new season come to an abrupt halt with an embarrassing 7-2 defeat to Aston Villa last weekend but that result is expected to be nothing more than a temporary blip.

Liverpool are far too good a side to let one poor performance derail their campaign before it’s even begun and the bookmakers clearly agree as this online casino in Kenya is one of many who’ve installed Liverpool as the 5/1 joint second favorites to win the Champions League this season.

The Merseyside club has a relatively straight-forward group after being drawn to face Ajax, Atalanta and Midtylland so Liverpool should ease into the knockout stages where Klopp’s players will be confident of beating most clubs on their day.

Bayern Munich are understandably the 4/1 favorites with most bookmakers having stormed their way to the trophy last campaign. The German’s are already showing some formidable form this year and have a superb squad so they will no doubt be right in the mix to retain their crown next May.

Manchester City fell just short last season after a shock defeat to Lyon in the quarter-final stages so Pep Guardiola will be determined to go further this time around as he looks to win the clubs first ever Champions League title.

City have strengthened their defense this summer after splashing out on Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake and they have a simple group to navigate so Guardiola will hope he’s finally got the foundations to go all the way to the final and they look a decent bet at odds of 5/1.

Paris Saint-Germain went agonizingly close to winning their first ever European Cup after losing 1-0 to Bayern in last season’s final. With the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe up front, the French champions are a very dangerous team and look good value to go one better this season at odds of 10/1 with some bookmakers.

Juventus are always strong contenders and they are priced at 14/1 while Spain’s big guns Barcelona and Real Madrid look tempting at 12/1 as they are always competitive in the Champions League knockout stages.

Chelsea are seen as outsiders as they’re priced at 22/1 while Manchester United have been pushed out to 25/1 following their humiliating 6-1 defeat to Tottenham so the bookies don’t see Ole Gunnar Solskjaer turning things around.

PSG in the relegation zone as they search for first win of the season against Metz

Look at the Ligue 1 table, you may have to take a double look or even a triple look before you believe your eyes and see that PSG are in 17th place.

The champions have lost their first two games of the season for the first time in 42 years. Defeats against Lens 1-0 on the opening weekend of the season and then a 1-0 loss to Marseille in Paris last weekend means that they come into this game on zero points with zero goals.

Metz who are expected to struggle this season are on the same page as PSG, how rare is that? The club have also lost their opening two games, but that was expected, PSG’s wasn’t.

Of course the champions begun the season depleted with up to 7 players affected with the Coronavirus after the club allowed the team to go on holiday to Ibiza a week after they lost the Champions League final to Bayern Munich. There was still some quality in the PSG team that faced Lens though, but they were still defeated.

Against Marseille, some came back including Neymar and PSG played some good football but it was their rivals that scored the only goal of the game and then the melee at the end saw 5 players sent off, including Neymar which rules him out of this game.

PSG will be the huge odds on favourites to get it right against Metz though and the game is in Paris, this should be the match to break the duck for the club, if it isn’t there will be serious questions launched at them even if they have had some problems in preparing for the new league season.

Thomas Tuchel the PSG coach will be under pressure when the game takes place tonight and he had this to say, “Everyone thinks there is a results crisis, and in fact that’s the case. We have lost three in a row [counting the Champions League final, against Bayern Munich] and we’re not used to that. But we’ve had some good matches and I was surprised to see how we played against OM. We controlled the match. There were one or two classes of difference between the two teams. Complete domination, but you can lose a match like that.”

As for Metz they will try and go for the win playing the counter attack and will hope to score a goal at least and give PSG a game. Players such as Marquinhos and Mauro Icardi will be back for the champions, but Kylian Mbappe is still missing.

 

Under Niko Kovac can Monaco bounce back and become challengers once more?

It’s incredible to think that it was only in 2017 when Monaco won Ligue 1 and wrestled the title from PSG’s hands. Since 2012 only PSG have been champions of France apart from Monaco’s saving grace three years ago. But it is a fact that it remains incredible given how Monaco fell to pieces soon after.

Twice since then the club have almost been relegated and had to fight for everything. Much of this was not down to Leonardo Jardim their long time and suffering coach who actually had two spells at the club in a quite chaotic time. Jardim made miracles happen, but the owners were intent on buying cheap and selling for profit and Monaco soon became the stock exchange of European football.

There has been so much brilliant talent come out of the side in the past 3 years with the creme de la creme being the emergence of Kylian Mbappe who predictably was snapped up by PSG. Monaco have done amazing financial business but it has hit them. One suspects that the club are looking in a different direction as they try to become challengers once again.

They have employed Niko Kovac, ex Bayern Munich coach who won the German Bundesliga with them. He comes with some experience, and there was certainly hope last season as Monaco finished in the top half of the table after a decent run.

The signing of Wissam Ben Yedder from Sevilla has been some of the best business seen in Europe- Ben Yedder scores goals and wins games. He scored 19 goals in all competitions for Monaco last season from just 30 games, and is a natural striker.

This feels like the first summer where you look at who Monaco have sold and there are no gasps- they have actually kept their best players. Much of their transfers in have remained officially undisclosed but they have still brought in some interesting players for the new season ahead. These include Kevin Volland from Bayer Leverkusen and Caio Henrique from Atletico Madrid both quality players.

But what really catches the eye if you follow French football is that they have also bought Axel Disasi from Reims, Disasi was probably Reims best player last season and this is a really great capture.

As for this season Monaco have started with 4 points from 2 games. They drew 2-2 with Reims at home which felt like a poor result but given that they were trailing by 2 goals it was actually a good point. They then beat Metz 1-0 the week after. Monaco will be looking to challenge strong in the league this season. Whilst winning the league seems too much of a stretch this season there is every chance they can claim a Champions League place and be back on the football scene once more.

Neymar, Mbappe and 5 other PSG players have Coronavirus as league campaign due to start in chaos

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. PSG have confirmed at least 6 of their players have the Coronavirus ahead of the new season, and largely it is the clubs fault.

Most of the players involved were authorised to go on a special holiday to Ibiza, even during a pandemic after the disappointment of losing the Champions League final against Bayern Munich. Because of course when you lose, you go and on holiday and have a great time. But the risks have been very clear in the past few months, and photos of the players relaxing showed them arm in arm.

Indeed let’s go back to the medal presentation at the final itself where UEFA staff including the president Aleksander Ceferin freely shook all of the players hands, and of course no masks were involved. Time and again it seems mistakes have been made and now PSG are paying for this.

The club have not confirmed all the players that have tested positive, but L’equipe, France’s main sports paper, says that Marquinhos and Neymar are amongst the players affected. Both have been omitted from PSG’s first game of the season against Lens tomorrow. Kylian Mbappe was exposed as another who tested positive much to the anger of the club, with that news getting out. However what difference does it make?

This is a bad moment for PSG who will be weakened by this news for at least the first 2 games of the new season. They have already started 2 games behind the other clubs, although they will be heavy favourites to win the league once again.

The story exposes just how bad certain things have been planned between players and safety and of course it would be wrong to point the finger solely at PSG, Montpellier and Rennes have been hit too and in France the cases are increasing especially around the Paris area.

But maybe to have star players who have fallen ill to the virus will be a slight embarrassment to the club just as role models, and it is evident that they haven’t been following strict protocol. The news now of course is to wish every player the best with their health and see them on the pitch once again. And it goes to show just how easy it is to get the virus.

Lens who have been newly promoted this season will be boosted not by the virus of course but by some key players being left out of the game tomorrow, and they will feel they have a real chance to get some points in that game.

 

 

Ligue 1: Player of the Weekend: Memphis Depay

There were quite a lot of challenges to Memphis Depay for Ligue 1 player of the weekend, with players scoring braces of goals and defenders getting the winner in Monaco’s case and keeping a clean sheet. But Depay gets the nod after he scored a hat trick.

Lyon beat Dijon 4-1 and that was important for three reasons: The first was eradicating how poor the club had started last season which gave them no chance of challenging PSG for the league title. The second was that this game, their first of the season came just days after losing at the semi-final stage of the Champions League, naturally the club would be feeling down, so this win back in the domestic league is a great sign. The final reason was getting one up, at least psychologically on PSG, as the champions will not play a game until September 10th. They were given an extra 10 days rest given that they had reached the Champions League final.

Back to Depay who has always remained a quality purchase for Lyon. Last season he was very important for the club and amassed 40 points. He scored 9 goals and also assisted in a further two. That was probably his weakest link last season not setting up more goals.

However Depay has started the season in brilliant style by scoring a hat trick. Lyon were 1-0 down when they were awarded a penalty with just six minutes left of the first half which Depay converted. But even more good news was to come when Depay scored again right on half time. That goal had put Lyon 2-1 up at half time from a losing position and that was key to Dijon losing their hearts in the game. Depay wasn’t finished though and completed his hat trick after his side were awarded another penalty in the second half. The other Lyon goal came through an own goal. The only blemish for Depay was that he was booked during the game.

Despite the man of the match performance and a blistering start from Depay there was a downside to what he said after the game speculating on his future, Depay said: “I do not see the future, I do not know if I will do the full season here. I have been here for four years, I became captain. After you have to look at your career, there is no Champions League. At the moment I don’t know.”

And that could be key for Depay’s future at Lyon. He wants a move to possibly Barcelona and certainly wants to play in the Champions League. For now Lyon are happy to have Depay, but is Depay happy to be at Lyon?

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How good is Neymar when it matters most?

We all know Neymar is an amazing football player, but is he one of the greats?

Is he really good enough to be mentioned as one of the best next to Messi and Ronaldo?

Another season is on the books and the highest paid player in history once again failed to deliver the decisive blow when it mattered the most for his squad – PSG lost to Bayern in the Champions League final last Sunday and their star player had one of his worst performances of the season.

The Brazilian striker failed to register a key pass and completed only four dribbles, all in areas that didn’t concern Bayern. After his great performances against Atalanta and Leipzig it was expected that the 28-year old would finally show his tremendous talent on the biggest stage but he was stopped in his tracks by Joshua Kimmich and co. leaving his PSG squad without the trophy they spent a small fortune chasing.

And this wasn’t the first time Neymar didn’t meet the expectations.

After four seasons with Barcelona and winning his only Champions league trophy, Neymar wanted to get out of a team built around Lionel Messi, and show everyone that he is ready to lead a squad to the glory on his own.

He moved to PSG for a record €222 million and showed his magic in the French Ligue 1. He scored 47 goals in 52 matches which seem impressive but the fans from the French capital have seen top performances domestically before, notably from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani. The only way Neymar could meet the expectations and make the investment of the Qatari owners worthwhile was by bringing the Champions League trophy, something he hasn’t managed to do in the past three seasons.

In his first season with the PSG, they were eliminated in the round of 16 by Real Madrid. He didn’t score on Santiago Bernabeu and he didn’t play in the return match due to an injury. He was solid in the group stage the following year, but missed the clash against Manchester United in the first elimination round due to leg pain.

The argument that he was not made for big games carries even more weight when his performance for Brazilian national team is taken into consideration. As is the case for his club when he is the main-man against Granada or Bilbao, Bordeaux or Montpellier, so it is the case in the national team against Ecuador or Bolivia, but when his whole nation expects the glory, he has not been able to perform. At the 2014 World Cup, he played well only in the group, after which he got injured. Two years ago, he was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Belgium.

At the Copa America in 2011, Neymar and Brazil were stopped in the quarterfinals against Paraguay and the same happened four years later. To make the paradox bigger, Brazil became the champion of South America last summer, but Neymar didn’t even participate in the competition due to a ligament damage injury.

Unlike his fellow countrymen Pele or Ronaldo, who brought joy to Brazil with goals in the World Cup finals or the greatest players in his time, Messi and Ronaldo who always deliver, Neymar still hasn’t got even close to them and the only way to do so is to score when it really matters.

Bayern Munich win 6th Champions League title after they beat PSG

Bayern Munich have joined Liverpool to win their 6th Champions League title after they beat PSG 1-0 in Lisbon.

The final was the opposite of what many thought it would be; full of goals and excitement. After all there were arguably 3 of the deadliest strikers in Europe on the pitch in the form of PSG’s Neymar and Kylian Mbappe and Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski. All three threatened to score, but none of them did.

In truth the final was a turgid affair which was riddled with mistakes, unforgivable for the quality that was on the pitch. Time and again both sets of teams made the wrong choices of pass and easily lost possession, that can happen but when it is under no pressure from the opposing team it feels like fatal viewing.

Bayern played much like they did against Lyon in the semi-finals, tactically aware as the game went on but not forcing themselves on the game. They are a team who are the best in Europe but under Hansi Flick also a team that do not feel comfortable in the game until they get that first goal. That is why it was unfortunate that PSG was not able to open the scoring and through Neymar they really should have. Manuel Neuer made a superb double save instead, in a rare golden chance for the French champions.

For much of the game Lewandowski traded goal mouth chances with falling over- some fouls looked genuine, others did not and he was not the only one feigning injury, or at least going over too easy. Neymar regrettably did the same towards the end of the game in which all of those ingredients that have made a passing fan loathe his style of play at times were highlighted. This was unfortunate given that every football fan was watching him on his stage as opposed to Ligue 1 football.

It was still an awesome sight at times to see both Neymar and Mbappe running at the Bayern defence. That’s £400m worth of talent there- a tornado about to engulf the Bayern defence, but we only ended up seeing this genuine attacking play on three occasions. Mostly in the first half.

On the hour mark Bayern got their goal and the one that would end up winning it. No Lewandowski heroics, though he had hit the post earlier in the game after a trademark spin, no Thomas Muller searing away with that smile either. Instead it was Kingsley Coman a PSG fan since a boy and the youngster prized away from Juventus a few seasons ago. Bayern coach Hansi Flick had mostly used Coman as a super sub, this time he gave him the nod to start the final. It paid dividends. A good forceful header was enough to beat Kaylor Navas and the game dearly needed a goal.

At that and with 30 minutes to go one would have thought PSG would have been relentless, instead it was Bayern on the attack looking to kill the game with a 2nd goal. Indeed Bayern for the large majority of the remaining time contained the threat of PSG. By this time Neymar, the golden boy looked tired. Mbappe the only golden boy did make some daring runs into the Bayern area with his quick feet and looked like he had been fouled for a penalty late on. The problem was that the referee waved it on given that Mbappe had made a meal of earlier fouls.

Angel Di Maria had moments of brilliance one involved a beautiful unseen pass, that reminded older football fans of Fernando Redondo’s exquisite move for Real Madrid to open up Manchester United 20 years ago. That move ended in a goal unlike Di Maria’s.

It was hard to take for PSG, Mbappe’s first half miss in front of goal when he appeared to pass back to Neuer rather than shoot isn’t easy to swallow for anyone considering the money he cost the club. But that shot summed up PSG’s evening, they were turgid and hollow.

Bayern in the end did enough and some of their defensive work as the game went on was superb. It was hardly a vintage display by the all conquering champions and yet it was something to be afraid of. Here we have a Bayern Munich side who can turn it on with goals and devastating attacking play, just ask Barcelona. But we also have a team that appear to have a plan b, one that can change the pace of the game to suit themselves and retreat with confidence when they have too.

It was inevitable at the final whistle that Neymar burst into tears as his dream of winning the competition with PSG was left in tatters. But Neymar will shine once more on his stage. There was perhaps more sympathy awarded to Thomas Tuchel the PSG coach who looked in genuine pain on his crutches following his foot injury a few weeks before, pain and disappointment is always going to be a toxic mix.

Attentions will turn to who will pick up the world player of the year in a season that has been strange to say the least. One could do little wrong in surely handing that trophy over to Manuel Neuer.