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Guardiola’s advice

Neuer should ‘enjoy himself’ in Zurich

Manuel Neuer clearly enjoyed his session of goalkeeping practice on Saturday, with a great save here and an athletic dive there. However, the 28-year-old will soon interrupt his preparations for the second half of the season for a few hours, as he is a hot candidate for the most prestigious individual award at the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala in Switzerland on Monday.

“Manu should be very proud of himself because it’s a massive achievement to be one of the best three players in the world,” declared Pep Guardiola in Doha, praising his number one’s performances regardless of the outcome of Monday’s vote: “Manu is already a winner. It’s already a great victory when they invite you to fly to Zurich,” the Bayern boss said.

“My advice to Manuel is the same I gave Franck a year ago: go there and enjoy yourself!” continued Guardiola. The keeper will fly to Switzerland on Monday morning, together with Arjen Robben, a top candidate for a place in the World Team of the Year. Guardiola counselled Neuer not to worry unduly about the outcome of the vote in advance: “Don’t bother thinking about whether you’ll win or not. If you win it’s good, and if not, that’s good too.”

The shortlist for the World Player award could hardly be packed with more quality. Neuer is up against previous year’s winner Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and the stunningly prolific Lionel Messi of Barcelona. “All three are great players and all three deserve the award,” commented Guardiola, although he is making no secret of his preferred candidate: “I hope Manu wins the Ballon d'Or.”