What is it exactly about the role of the goalkeeper, such a vital position on the football field, that dictates when it is time for the individual awards season to roll round, they not only get blanked, but also command barely a mention in those discussions?
Just take a look at the individual breakdown of the voting for the Ballon d’Or since its inception in 1956, and you will notice a pattern developing that runs right through to this day: Keepers, for some unexplained reason, just do not figure in the collective thinking.
Indeed, in the 57 years that the prestigious Ballon d’Or has been operating, only one shot-stopper has ever been crowned European Footballer of the Year (from 2010, the award merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year gong to create the FIFA Ballon d’Or) and that was legendary Russian goalkeeper Lev Yashin in 1963, a man considered to be the greatest keeper the game has ever seen.
And a further delve into the voting patterns reveals that only three other No. 1's have ever made it into the top three positions: Italy and Juventus captain Dino Zoff, who was runner-up to Johan Cruyff in 1973; Germany and Bayern Munich skipper Oliver Kahn, who came in third place two years in a row (2001-2002); and current Juve and Italy No. 1 Gianluigi Buffon, who was pipped to the award by compatriot Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.
When this year’s 23-man short list was announced in October, again it was noticeable for its absence of top-quality custodians, with only the likes of Iker Casillas, Manuel Neuer and Buffon getting nominated. None of that trio ever came close to threatening the eventual top three of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta when the winner was announced at the turn of the year.
So, as we gaze into our crystal ball, we select five shot-stoppers who have the potential to go on and win the 2013 Ballon d’Or…