Jonas Hofmann played a pivotal role as Borussia Monchengladbach incredibly came from two goals down to defeat Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich 3-2 on Friday.

Robert Lewandowski scored his 20th top-flight goal of the season from the penalty spot after an inexplicable handball from Florian Neuhaus, and Leon Goretzka had Bayern cruising at Borussia-Park in the 26th minute.

However, Hofmann struck twice in the space of 10 minutes to send the teams into half-time level and Neuhaus atoned for his earlier error with what proved to be the winner in the 49th minute.

Gladbach consequently became the first team since Cologne in February 2011 to defeat Bayern in the Bundesliga after falling 2-0 down.

Lewandowski put Bayern in front from the penalty spot following a bizarre handball by Neuhaus, though referee Harm Osmers only pointed to the spot after a VAR check.

Bayern doubled their advantage six minutes later, Goretzka intercepting Matthias Ginter's pass and drilling a venomous effort past Yann Sommer after a one-two with Leroy Sane.

Gladbach reduced the deficit when Rami Bensebaini regained the ball high up the pitch and a quick passing move ended with Hofmann sliding Lars Stindl's throughball past Manuel Neuer.

The hosts drew level in first-half stoppage time when Stindl dispossessed Joshua Kimmich and fed Hofmann for another cool finish - the VAR confirming he was onside when the pass was played.

Gladbach completed the turnaround four minutes after the restart, Hofmann intercepting Niklas Sule's pass and teeing up Neuhaus to curl a wonderful effort into the top-right corner.

Marco Rose's men sat deep and Ginter cleared a header from Sule off the line in the 91st minute, opening the door for RB Leipzig to replace Bayern at the Bundesliga summit if they can beat Borussia Dortmund in a mouthwatering clash on Saturday.

What does it mean? Worries at the back for Flick

Bayern's defensive struggles continued against Gladbach, with Neuer now on a 10-game run without a clean sheet in the Bundesliga for the first time in his career.

He was not helped by Benjamin Pavard giving away possession prior to Hofmann's first, while Sule played a role in allowing the other two Gladbach goals.

Securing the future of David Alaba, who will be out of contract at the end of the season, never seemed quite so important.

Having it Lars

Most teams would think the game is beyond them when falling 2-0 down to Bayern, but Gladbach captain Stindl led by example to turn the game around. He set up both of Hofmann's goals with a pair of quality passes and contested 11 duels before being substituted in the 82nd minute.

Sluggish Sule

Sule replaced Jerome Boateng in the centre of defence but endured a disappointing outing. He played Hofmann onside for the equaliser just before half-time and within minutes of the restart his stray pass resulted in Neuhaus putting Gladbach in front.

What's next?

Bayern are in DFB-Pokal action against 2. Bundesliga side Holstein Kiel on Wednesday, while Gladbach have a week to prepare for a Bundesliga clash with Stuttgart.

Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is enduring the worst run of his Bundesliga career.

With Jonas Hofmann's goal in the 35th minute of Bayern's meeting with Borussia Monchengladbach on Friday, Neuer failed to keep a clean sheet for the 10th straight top-flight game.

It is the first time the 34-year-old keeper has conceded in 10 successive Bundesliga matches during his 15 seasons in the competition.

Neuer's previous worst streak was a run of nine games between September and December in 2018.

The last time Bayern kept a clean sheet in the Bundesliga was in their 5-0 triumph over Eintracht Frankfurt on October 24.

Denis Zakaria insists he has had no contact with any other club amid reports Bayern Munich are planning a move for the Borussia Monchengladbach prospect.

The 24-year-old midfielder is said to be high on the Bundesliga champions' list of targets for the 2021-22 campaign, with the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United having been linked with a move as well.

A knee injury sustained in March meant Zakaria did not play until November this season, and from seven Bundesliga appearances he has won 24 duels, five tackles, made two interceptions and regained 18 possession times.

His passing accuracy of 86.49 per cent suggests a level of comfort on the ball, which would be crucial at Bayern to allow more attack-minded players to flourish.

For now, though, Zakaria's focus is purely on maintaining his promising rise at Gladbach, with whom he has a contract until June 2022.

"I haven't talked to anyone about a transfer. I'm 100 percent focused on Gladbach and still have a year and a half left on my contract," Zakaria said to Sport1.

"I don't have a classic career plan. But I've dreamed of playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world since I was a young player. 

"To achieve that at some point, I have to work hard here in Gladbach. For now, I'm very happy at Borussia."

Last season, Zakaria regained posession eight times per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga, the best rate of any Gladbach player. 

If he were to join Bayern, Zakaria would play alongside Joshua Kimmich – someone he considers to be the benchmark for midfielders.

"He's just great. Kimmich is currently the best midfielder in the world," he added.

"It automatically raises your midfield to a top level. Of course I like to watch him."

Asked if he had a role model in the game, Zakaria pointed to a couple of prominent Frenchmen.

"I think Paul Pogba is great. My biggest idol used to be Patrick Vieira. He has had a world-class career. I am already emulating him a little," he said.

"But it's always clear to me: I want to be Denis Zakaria and not Pogba or Vieira. I want to put my own stamp on football."

Hansi Flick has told his Bayern Munich stars to show "a different attitude from the start" as he bids to achieve a feat only Pep Guardiola has achieved before.

On Friday evening, Flick can reach 100 points from his first 39 Bundesliga games in charge of the Bavarian giants, needing a win at Borussia Monchengladbach to hit that landmark.

But head coach Flick is unwilling to tolerate any repeat of the shaky first-half performance that saw his team trail Mainz 2-0 on Sunday, before turning the game around to register a 5-2 win.

Guardiola, who joined Bayern ahead of the 2013-14 season, brought up his century of points in the same number of games.

That saw Guardiola lead Bayern to a championship with 90 points before beginning the following season with three wins and two draws.

The Manchester City boss amassed 101 points from his first 39 Bundesliga matches, the first Bayern head coach to achieve a three-figure points haul so quickly.

Flick knows if he is to add an immediate three points to his current 97 points, the European champions will need to pull their weight.

"We have addressed it very clearly and want to go into the game with a different attitude and dynamic," Flick said on Thursday in a pre-match news conference.

"We want to be more present in the duels. We can't just hope for Manu [goalkeeper Manuel Neuer] at the back.

"We need a different attitude from the start. We have to show what we are capable of. The team have this mentality. Gladbach have high individual quality and great tempo."

Flick's side have scored 119 goals in their 38 league games during his tenure, winning 31 times, drawing four and losing only three times.

But there is no certainty they will get the better of Gladbach, having lost to the Foals in the first half of the season in each of the last three campaigns before winning the reverse game.

Indeed, Bayern have only won 13 of 52 previous away games against Friday's opponents, losing 21 times and drawing on 18 occasions.

Flick's recent record in Friday night games bodes well for Bayern.

They began this season with an 8-0 thrashing of Schalke on a Friday, and their previous Friday game was the 8-2 humbling of Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Bayern have won 16 of their last 20 Friday games in all competitions (D3 L1), Opta said.

Hansi Flick has ruled out Bayern Munich making any major signings in the January transfer window.

The head coach said on Thursday there was a chance of "one or two" players leaving the European champions.

But in terms of arrivals, Flick said it was important he did not press the club to bring in new faces during a "very difficult" period.

Like all clubs, Bayern's finances have taken a hit, largely because of the absence of supporters from stadiums during the COVID-19 crisis.

"Let me be very clear about this: the current situation affects all clubs in the world," Flick said.

"It's not an easy situation with corona. I'd like to be clear: I don't want to demand new players. I know the situation at Bayern Munich; I know it's very difficult at the moment.

"The squad we have here at our disposal is the squad we'll have until the end of the season.

"I'm not sure if one or two might still transfer. There are certain things that have been talked about, but currently we have very good quality in our squad and I don't think our goals are in jeopardy."

Speaking ahead of Friday's Bundesliga trip to face Borussia Monchengladbach, Flick claimed leaders Bayern "still have room for improvement".

"The team knows it and every single player knows it," Flick said.

Scoring 44 goals in 14 league games has pleased Flick but shipping 21 at this early stage of the campaign is a concern.

"We have to work on that," he said. "It's not about the defence in particular. It's conceding no goals, keeping clean sheets, defending.

"In order to do that you have to have a compact defence and order and organisation with which you pressure the opponent and that's what we have to improve on."

Flick was asked whether Joshua Zirkzee may be on the move, with the 19-year-old on the fringes of the Bayern squad.

He responded: "At the moment I am not aware of any departures, but everything can always go quickly.

"Zirkzee has tremendous qualities and can develop well. He was out of training for a few weeks. He will get games, also with the under-23s. He can take a lot from the professionals, but then he has to show what he can do with the under-23s and put himself at the service of the team. He is good in front of goal, has strong technique and good dynamics."

Bayern have a doubt over Serge Gnabry for the Gladbach game after he was substituted with a knock in the 5-2 win over Mainz on Sunday, Flick saying the forward is "still in pain".

Manchester City have reportedly annoyed Kevin De Bruyne with their contract offer amid interest in Lionel Messi.

De Bruyne, 29, has been expected to sign a new deal with the Premier League giants, with his contract expiring in 2023.

But with Messi coming out of contract at season's end, City's offer to De Bruyne has seemingly drawn questions.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY ANNOY DE BRUYNE AMID MESSI INTEREST

Manchester City have annoyed De Bruyne with their contract offer, according to The Athletic.

The report says the offer is less than De Bruyne is currently on because of potentially signing Messi. However, the Belgium international is still expected to re-sign.

City have been strongly linked to Messi, who could leave Barcelona at the end of the campaign when is contract is due to expire.

The Barcelona captain has insisted he will not make a decision on his future until the season's conclusion.

 

ROUND-UP

- Also coming out of contract is Bayern Munich star David Alaba. The Guardian reports Liverpool are interested in signing the defender, but Real Madrid lead the race.

- Staying at Real Madrid and there is uncertainty over Sergio Ramos' future. With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Ramos will not accept a one-year deal and the defender and LaLiga champions are distant in their bid to reach an agreement, according to Marca. The Manchester Evening News reports City are not interested in Ramos.

Antoine Griezmann is still yet to find his best form for Barcelona, but Sport reports the Blaugrana are not considering selling the forward.

Mesut Ozil could be set to leave Arsenal. Football.London reports the playmaker, who comes out of contract in June, is in negotiations with MLS franchise DC United.

- Linked with Juventus and InterOlivier Giroud is set to stay at Chelsea, according to Goal. They also claim Juve are considering Sampdoria forward Fabio Quagliarella as an alternative, while Milan look set to keep hold of star midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu.

Andriy Shevchenko is in the conversation to take over as Chelsea manager if the Blues decide to part ways with manager Frank Lampard.

With Chelsea languishing in ninth place in the Premier League table, Le10sport reports the Ukrainian's name is on the Blues list of possible replacements.

Shevchenko played for the club between 2006 and 2008 and has since forged a managerial career with the Ukraine national team, moving through the under-19 and under-21 teams to the senior dugout.

 

TOP STORY – SHEVCHENKO BEING CONSIDERED AS NEXT CHELSEA MANAGER

Chelsea are studying their options to replace Lampard and his former Blues team-mate Shevchenko is part of the shortlist, reports Le10sports.

The 44-year-old led Ukraine through an undefeated Euro 2020 qualifying campaign to reach the finals, drawing 0-0 in Portugal and beating the European champions 2-1, in Kiev.

Shevchenko remains close to the club as his 14-year-old son, Kristian, plays in the Blues academy and is well liked by club owner Roman Abramovich, say Le10sports sources.

Bayern Munich came from behind for an eighth successive Bundesliga match as the champions overcame struggling Mainz 5-2 at Allianz Arena.

Hansi Flick's side have not taken the lead in a league game since October and might have been staring down the barrel of a second defeat of the season had Danny Latza beaten Manuel Neuer early in the second half.

Mainz had a 2-0 lead at that stage, with Jonathan Burkardt and Alexander Hack scoring in the first half, but Joshua Kimmich and Leroy Sane restored parity in the space of five minutes.

Robin Quaison struck the woodwork as 17th-placed Mainz fought back, though Bayern ultimately had too much.

Niklas Sule's deflected strike and Robert Lewandowski's double – the first of which came from the spot – settling a thrilling contest firmly in Bayern's favour.

 

Zinedine Zidane is not entertaining speculation about transfer talks with David Alaba as Real Madrid battle to defend their LaLiga title.

Bayern Munich defender Alaba is out of contract in Germany at the end of the season and negotiations over an extension have so far proved fruitless for the European champions.

The Austria international has been mooted as a target for Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain as well as Madrid, although Zidane's outfit are considered favourites for his signature in some quarters.

Alaba was a key part of the Bayern team that won the Champions League last season.

However, since the start of 2019-20, he has committed four errors leading to shots in the competition, a joint-high among defenders. None of these have resulted in goals, while Madrid's Raphael Varane has made the same number of mistakes but been punished on all four occasions.

Alaba's statistics over this period are very similar to Varane's, playing 13 games to his 14 and having 29 fewer touches and seven fewer successful passes.

Varane is also just four tackles, two blocks, five clearances and seven interceptions ahead of his counterpart.

Rather than being signed as a competitor to Varane, though, Alaba could partner the World Cup winner as talismanic Madrid captain Sergio Ramos approaches his 35th birthday.

Either way, the speculation does not interest head coach Zidane, who said ahead of facing Celta Vigo: "We've got all our players here. I'm just thinking about the game tomorrow with the players that I have here.

"Then maybe you're going to ask me about the players that are playing a lot or not playing a lot. We have 22 players, 25 with the goalkeepers, a very big squad.

"We have enough to think about with the games that we have not to be thinking about players that aren't even ours. Please, we're thinking just about the game tomorrow."

While Zidane is keeping his focus on LaLiga, where Madrid trail Atletico Madrid by two points, the need to bring in a player of Alaba's calibre would become urgent if a new contract for Ramos was not agreed.

The PSG-linked skipper, Luka Modric and Lucas Vazquez are all free agents, like Alaba, in June 2021.

"Yes, we all want [contracts to be signed]," Zidane said. "We want the situation to be sorted as quickly as possible.

"It's in everyone's interests, it would be good for everyone, so hopefully it can be sorted out quickly."

The date of January 1 is typically the time for New Year's resolutions but for some footballers in Europe's top five leagues it signals the day they can plot a lucrative move to a new club.

A number of top players, including Barcelona's Lionel Messi, are out of contract at the end of the 2021 season and from the start of the year are free to open talks with other teams.

Messi, of course, will be the one that takes the limelight but there are some other big-name players who will be free to leave their clubs for nothing in six months.

Here's the best players (and a couple of pretty good second choices) who are out of contract in 2021 and make up a free transfers XI.

FREE TRANSFERS XI (4-3-3)

GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma (Marko Dmitrovic)
The youngest goalkeeper ever to play for Italy – at 17 years and 189 days – has now matured into one of Serie A's most consistent performers between the sticks. The 21-year-old has been key to Milan's surge to the top of the table with four clean sheets in the league so far this season.

RB: Elseid Hysaj (Kenny Lala)
Comfortable on both the right and left flanks the versatile Albanian full-back, 26, has been a dependable, and largely unsung, part of Napoli's defence since 2015. He may lack the eye-catching assists of attacking defenders but Hysaj uses the ball intelligently in possession.

CB: Eric Garcia (Shkodran Mustafi)
A product of Barcelona's La Masia academy he joined Manchester City in 2017 where Pep Guardiola has been influential in his development. Blessed with an excellent reading of the game, and a superb positional sense, the 19-year-old has rejected a new contract at City and appears hungry for regular first-team football elsewhere.

CB: Sergio Ramos (Jerome Boateng)
The knees might be creaking at the age of 34, but the Real Madrid and Spain centre-back's mix of bloody-minded determination and charismatic leadership make him an asset to nearly any defence despite being at the back end of his career.

LB: David Alaba (Romain Saiss)
Able to operate in defence or midfield the 28-year-old Austria international has spent a decade as one of Bayern Munich's most consistent and reliable players. With nine Bundesliga and two Champions League winners' medals under his belt he has bucketloads of experience at the top level.

CM: Georginio Wijnaldum (Hakan Calhanoglu)
The Dutch midfielder has been converted by Jurgen Klopp from a goalscoring attacker into an intelligent midfield workaholic integral to Liverpool's style of play. Largely unheralded, he is man for the big occasion as his two goals in Liverpool's famous 4-0 comeback win over Barcelona demonstrate.

CM: Fernandinho (Mesut Ozil)
He turns 36 next May, and may lack the bite of old, but the Brazilian still has a lot to offer either as an efficient defensive midfielder or classy centre-back. Another player whose influence and quality may only be fully appreciated by City when he has actually left the club.

CM: Luka Modric (Julian Draxler)
A cultured and experienced midfield playmaker who, despite his diminutive frame, still oozes class whenever he is on the ball. Part of the furniture at Real Madrid since 2012 the 35-year-old Croatian looks like he still has plenty of years at the top ahead of him provided injuries do not take their toll.

RF: Lionel Messi (Florian Thauvin, Lucas Vazquez)
Should he stay or should he go? The transfer saga of 2020 looks set to dominate much of 2021 as well. Barcelona's greatest ever player needs no introduction. Since his debut in October 2004, Barca have won 55.9 per cent of their LaLiga games without Messi (won 66, drawn 39 and lost 22), compared to 73.7 per cent with him in the side (won 368, drawn 83 and lost 48).

CF: Sergio Aguero (Olivier Giroud, Arkadiusz Milik, Diego Costa)
Injury problems appear to be catching up with the 32-year-old Manchester City striker. On his day, there are few better natural finishers around. Aguero has more hat-tricks (12) than anyone else in the Premier League and is the highest non-English scorer in the history of the competition with 180 goals.

LF: Memphis Depay (Angel Di Maria)
A pitiful return of just two league goals in 33 appearances saw him jettisoned by Manchester United in 2017 but since then Depay has rebuilt his career and started to flourish. The Dutch forward has a respectable 62 goals in 154 appearances for Lyon in Ligue 1 and aged 26 is about to hit his peak.

Thomas Tuchel's tenure as Paris Saint-Germain head coach is all but over.

Tuchel will reportedly be replaced by Mauricio Pochettino, despite leading PSG to Ligue 1 glory last season and the Champions League final.

Can former PSG defender Pochettino help the French giants conquer Europe?

 

TOP STORY – POCH SET FOR PSG

Mauricio Pochettino has agreed terms to take charge of Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Thomas Tuchel's sacking is set to be announced after striking a deal with PSG to leave immediately – the compensation worth €6million, reports Bild.

Former Tottenham manager Pochettino is now poised to return to PSG, where he played between 2001 and 2003.

 

ROUND-UP

Diego Costa has requested to leave Atletico Madrid in January, claims Diario AS and Marca. If Costa is unable to depart during the next window, the veteran striker will farewell Atletico on a free transfer at season's end.

Wolves have joined the chase to sign Real Madrid outcast Luka Jovic, says The Athletic. Wolves are keen to bolster their attack following Raul Jimenez's serious injury and Jovic has emerged as a loan option for the Premier League side. Milan have also been heavily linked with the Serbia international.

Georginio Wijnaldum wants time to reflect on Liverpool's contract offer, reports Fabrizio Romano. Wijnaldum is set to become a free agent amid links to Barca.

- The Mirror reports Arsenal are circling for Brighton and Hove Albion full-back Tariq Lamptey should Hector Bellerin depart for Barcelona. Lamptey has been linked to Manchester City and Bayern Munich.

Sevilla are eyeing a January swoop for Marseille star Florian Thauvin, according to Andaluz Estadio Deportivo. Milan have also been tracking the Frenchman.

- Corriere dello Sport says Juventus and Inter remain keen on signing Udinese's Rodrigo De Paul. Meanwhile, Ilbianconeri claims Juve have been offered Arsenal outcast Mesut Ozil.

Manchester United remain in contact with Moises Caicedo's agents to sign the Independiente del Valle sensation, says Romano. The 19-year-old Ecuadorian midfielder wants to move to Old Trafford.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Pep Guardiola were honoured at the Globe Soccer Awards in Dubai, the duo named player and coach of the century respectively. 

Juventus forward Ronaldo picked up the award in person at a ceremony held at the Armani Hotel on Sunday. 

The 35-year-old, who has won domestic league titles in Spain, England and Italy and Euro 2016 with Portugal, admitted his pride at receiving the accolade, given to the player judged the best between 2001 and 2020. 

"It's a pleasure to win titles," said Ronaldo, a five-time Ballon d'Or winner, at the event. 

"It's not easy to be top of the game for so many years. I am really proud, but without a team, great coaches and clubs it is not possible." 

Guardiola was honoured for a managerial career which has seen him win league championships in Spain, Germany and England, as well as the Champions League twice.

The Manchester City boss was not present at the gala, though he accepted the award via a pre-recorded video message. 

Both Ronaldo and Lionel Messi missed out on the men's player of the year award for 2020, however, as that went to Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski. 

Bayern's treble of the Bundesliga, Champions League and DFB-Pokal also saw boss Hansi Flick rewarded as coach of the year.  

Real Madrid were named the club of the century at the ceremony, while Bayern picked up the team award for 2020. 

The Globe Soccer Awards, founded in 2010, acknowledge excellence in football with an annual gala dinner and awards ceremony.

It has been a year like no other, but football eventually managed to continue amid the coronavirus pandemic and give fans across the world something positive to focus on.

Ligue 1 was curtailed and a streamlined version of the Champions League knockout rounds took place in Lisbon in August, before a new season got under way.

There have still been plenty of performances to savour, though, and Stats Perform News has used Opta data to calculate a Team of the Year from the top five European leagues.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi made the grade in 2020 but the same could not be said of Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, while Kylian Mbappe earned a spot that his Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Neymar could not.

Supporters of Premier League clubs may not be rejoicing about the selections, which were made based solely on data.

 

Goalkeeper: Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid)

Atletico lead the way in LaLiga on goal difference and have two games in hand on nearest rivals Real Madrid. Diego Simeone's side owe much of their success to Oblak, who has kept 17 clean sheets in 33 LaLiga appearances this year – the most of any keeper in the division during the same period.

Right-back: Juan Cuadrado (Juventus)

Juve won a ninth straight Scudetto this year and Cuadrado has played an important role throughout 2020, creating 45 chances (including seven assists) for the Bianconeri in Serie A – only Paulo Dybala (56) supplied more key passes for the club.

Centre-back: Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund)

Bayern Munich may be the dominant force in the Bundesliga, but Hummels has continued to show his worth since returning to Dortmund. He made the most interceptions (57) and completed the most passes (2,056) of any Bundesliga defender in 2020.

Centre-back: Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig)

France international Upamecano is one of the hottest properties in European football and has been linked with a host of elite clubs. He shows great coolness in possession – as evidenced by him completing 24 of the 33 dribbles he attempted for a success rate of 73 per cent, the best of any Bundesliga defender to try at least 30.

Left-back: Theo Hernandez (Milan)

While Upamecano has established himself with Les Bleus, Hernandez's continued absence from the France set-up despite stellar showings for a resurgent Milan remains a source of much debate. The Rossoneri will end the year top of Serie A and Hernandez has been directly involved in 102 shots (46 chances created, 56 attempts on goal) in the league in 2020. That is more than any other defender in the same period.

Centre midfield: Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)

Kimmich's looping goal against Dortmund at the back end of last season was pivotal to Bayern retaining their German league title, which came as part of a treble. It has been the Germany international's distribution that has stood out this year, though. He completed an average of 75 passes per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga in 2020, the most of any midfielder in the competition to feature for at least 1,000 minutes.

Centre midfield: Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)

Madrid regained the title in LaLiga in 2020, with Kroos a central figure in Zinedine Zidane's midfield. Of all players who attempted at least 1,000 passes in the opposition half in the Spanish top flight this year, Kroos was the only one who had a completion rate higher than 90 per cent.

Right wing: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

This year may have proved to be terminal to Messi's tight relationship with Barcelona, and while he was not quite up to his previous goalscoring exploits he still proved massively influential in the final third. He was the only player in LaLiga in 2020 to both score at least 15 goals and register as many assists.

Attacking midfield: Alejandro 'Papu' Gomez (Atalanta)

His time with Atalanta may seemingly be coming to an end after a falling-out with Gian Piero Gasperini, but Gomez has been one of the club's most important players. He had more assists (12) and created more chances (81) in Serie A this year than any of his team-mates.

Left wing: Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)

PSG were crowned Ligue 1 champions despite the season being cut short in April, meaning they have played just 26 games this year. Mbappe only featured in 21 of those, but he was still directly involved in 24 goals (19 scored, five assisted) which was more than any other player in the competition in 2020.

Striker: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

It was no surprise to see Lewandowski named The Best FIFA Men's Player after an incredible campaign with Bayern. He scored 32 Bundesliga goals in 26 appearances this year and only five of them were spot-kicks. His tally of 27 non-penalty goals was the most of any player in the top five European leagues.

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski has revealed he held talks with Alex Ferguson over a move to Manchester United in 2012.

The Poland international was regularly linked with a switch to Old Trafford while at Borussia Dortmund, where he spent four trophy-laden seasons.

However, a transfer failed to materialise and he instead joined Dortmund's domestic rivals Bayern on a free transfer in 2014.

He has scored an incredible 266 goals in 307 appearances for Bayern and was the leading scorer in each of the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League last term as the Bavarian giants won a stunning treble.

Lewandowski was last week recognised for his form over the past year as The Best FIFA Men's Player for 2020, but his career could have gone down a different route had BVB not blocked a Premier League switch, he says.

"After my second year in Dortmund, I had a conversation with Sir Alex Ferguson," Lewandowski told France Football. "He wanted me to come to Manchester. 

"I was very interested. I can even say I was ready. But Dortmund didn't want to let me go. It didn't upset me more than that because things were going well with Borussia."

Ferguson instead signed Robin van Persie from Arsenal ahead of the 2012-13 campaign and he helped fire United to the Premier League title in the legendary manager's final season.

Robert Lewandowski says he can never be compared to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in terms of longevity but joked he is now the one sitting at football's top table.

The prolific Bayern Munich striker was named The Best FIFA Men's Player for 2020 last week thanks to his sensational form over the past year for treble-winning Bayern.

Messi and Ronaldo had won the award in three of its four prior editions, though it was Poland international Lewandowski who claimed the top prize this time around.

In terms of wider honours, Messi has won six Ballons d'Or to Ronaldo's five, the pair having gone head-to-head in a fierce battle to be the world's best for more than a decade.

But Lewandowski feels he can now be considered in the same conversation as two of the game's all-time greats on the basis of his goalscoring figures in recent years.

"Messi and Ronaldo have been sitting at the same table, at the top, for a very long time, and that's what makes them incomparable," he told France Football.

"So to answer your question, I can't imagine myself next to them in this point of view. 

"That said, if you take the numbers for this year and even previous ones, I think I'm pretty good in terms of performance and goals scored. 

"Failing to be at the same table as Messi and Ronaldo, I think I can invite them to eat at mine!"

Lewandowski scored 60 club goals at a rate of one every 76 minutes between July 20, 2019 and October 7, 2020 - the period considered for this year's FIFA Best award.

That tally, from 52 Bayern appearances, was 20 more than any other player in Europe's top five leagues.

Juventus star Ronaldo was tied with Ciro Immobile on 40 goals, while Barcelona forward Messi (32) trailed Romelu Lukaku (37), Timo Werner (35) and Raheem Sterling (34).

Lewandowski has scored 17 goals in the first 13 Bundesliga matchdays this season, meanwhile, to equal the record set by Gerd Muller in 1968-69 and 1976-77. 

And despite now being 32 years of age, he intends to continue evolving in order to maintain his high performance levels.

"I have a desire to progress and that's even more important because I know that my time is limited," he said. 

"Obviously, progress is not instantaneous. When you repeat something every day, you can only measure its effect three or six months later, not the next day. 

"The problem is, a lot of people want what you do in invisible work to be seen immediately. Patience is an important virtue, in football as in life."

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