Julian Nagelsmann was pleased with his team's efforts despite Bayern Munich losing 2-1 at home to Borussia Monchengladbach in the first Bundesliga game after the winter break.

A superb opener from Robert Lewandowski - who was nominated for the Best FIFA Men's Player 2021 award earlier on Friday - was cancelled out before half-time by Foals duo Florian Neuhaus and Stefan Lainer, with the league leaders unable to respond in the second half.

Bayern were without a number of key players through COVID-19 and injuries, including Manuel Neuer, Lucas Hernandez, Dayot Upamecano, Leon Goretzka, Alphonso Davies, Kingsley Coman and Leroy Sane, but Nagelsmann still believed his team deserved something from the game.

Speaking after the defeat, the 34-year-old told reporters: "We were actually closer to winning than Gladbach were.

"Considering the situation, we did very well in the first 25 minutes, we should have been up by more. The way we conceded the equaliser was complete madness, I don't know why we wanted to do that in the box like that, and then we conceded from another set-piece.

"In the second half we played decently and had lots of chances. Unlike in the cup game, we didn't deserve to lose today."

Although Nagelsmann was still able to name a relatively strong starting line-up, Bayern's bench was practically unrecognisable, filled with youngsters, including the debuting Paul Wanner.

Aged 16 years and 15 days, Wanner's 75th-minute introduction saw him become the second-youngest player in Bundesliga history, behind only Borussia Dortmund's Youssoufa Moukoko (16 years, 1 day), and Nagelsmann was effusive in his praise of the teenager.

"He's an unbelievable talent, very quick and very brave," the former Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig coach said. "He immediately took on [Breel] Embolo and went on dribbling in his first action. Physically he's not bad either. But he has to remain grounded and clear in his head, then the doors will be open for him."

Bayern were thrashed 5-0 by Gladbach in the DFB-Pokal earlier in the season, and Nagelsmann had expressed a desire for revenge ahead of the game, but instead Adi Hutter only increased his impressive record against the young German coach.

Hutter and Nagelsmann have now met eight times as opposition coaches in the Bundesliga, and nobody has won as often in the top flight against Nagelsmann as the Gladbach boss (W4 D3 L1).

The former Eintracht Frankfurt coach praised the intensity of his team, saying after the win: "Huge compliments to the team for coming back like that and getting the win in Munich. When the intensity is high, you have a good chance of winning, and that's what we showed today.

"Of course Bayern could have equalised, but my team played well. They implemented what we trained."

Bayern Munich were beaten for just the third time in the Bundesliga this season as they slipped to a 2-1 defeat against Borussia Monchengladbach as German football returned from its mid-season break.

First-half goals from Florian Neuhaus and Stefan Lainer cancelled out Robert Lewandowski's opener at the Allianz Arena, and Julian Nagelsmann's men were unable to find a way back into the game in the second period.

The defending champions had been hit by numerous positive COVID-19 cases in the build-up and were missing several key players including Manuel Neuer, Dayot Upamecano, Kingsley Coman, Alphonso Davies and Leroy Sane.

However, in a game behind closed doors with the snow falling in Munich, a nonetheless strong Bayern starting line-up was unable to avenge their 5-0 humbling by Gladbach in the DFB-Pokal this season.

Yann Sommer made two big saves early on from Serge Gnabry and Lewandowski, but the Poland star was never likely to be denied for long and he had Bayern in front on 18 minutes when he collected a Thomas Muller pass, before turning his marker and firing in at Sommer's near post with the usual precise venom.

Entirely against the run of play, Gladbach were level just nine minutes later. With the first real attack from the visitors, a cross was poorly cleared by Joshua Kimmich and the alert Neuhaus fired the ball in under Sven Ulreich.

That sparked Adi Hutter's team into life and they were ahead just after the half-hour mark when a Luca Netz corner was headed in well by Lainer.

Gladbach were the ones pressing for another as they started to dominate the hosts, with Neuhaus and Breel Embolo both coming close to getting a third, before Lewandowski hit the post from a tight angle just before half-time.

Sommer saved well from Jamal Musiala early in the second half while Lewandowski hit the woodwork again, but despite a late push for an equaliser, the league leaders were kept at bay.

Robert Lewandowski, Lionel Messi and Mohamed Salah have been announced as the three finalists for The Best FIFA Men's Player Award.

The attacking trio were named on a shortlist for the prize in November that also included Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne, Karim Benzema, Jorginho and N'Golo Kante.

Lewandowski, Messi and Salah are the final nominees chosen following a public vote that closed on December 10. Jennifer Hermoso, Sam Kerr and Alexia Putellas are the finalists for the women's award for 2021.

The final three up for The Best FIFA Men's Coach award, confirmed on Thursday, are Pep Guardiola, Roberto Mancini and Thomas Tuchel. Lluis Cortes, Emma Hayes and Sarina Wiegman are the finalists for the women's coaching prize.

The player awards will now be decided by an international jury comprising national team coaches and captains, a selected journalist from each territory represented by a national side, and fans registered with FIFA's website. The winners will be announced on January 17.

Lewandowski, who won the 2020 prize after firing Bayern Munich to the treble, scored 41 times in the Bundesliga last season to break Gerd Muller's 49-year record for goals in a single season. He ended 2021 with 48 goals in all competitions.

Messi, who won the 2021 Ballon d'Or to extend his record to seven trophies, helped Barcelona to win the Copa del Rey in what proved to be his final season at the club. He then inspired Argentina to glory at the Copa America, with four goals and five assists helping them to win the trophy for the first time since 1993.

Liverpool star Salah scored 37 times in all competitions in 2021, at least 15 more than any other Premier League player. He is top of the scoring charts for 2021-22 in England's top flight with 16, ahead of team-mate Diogo Jota on 10.

As football concludes for 2021, you'd be forgiven for wondering if the past year even happened at all.

COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing, the climate crisis continues unabated, Donald Trump is crying election fraud and everyone is talking about cryptocurrency without really knowing why. If Bill Murray appeared on television to tell you we're stuck in a 2020 time loop, you'd barely even blink.

Well, 2021 really did happen, and we have the data to prove it. Here, Stats Perform presents a selection of the biggest footballing moments of the year, and the numbers that help to make them unforgettable – even if you can't remember what day it is...

Tuchel your fancy

Expectations are pretty high for Chelsea coaches, but winning the Champions League before you've been in the job for half a year – after replacing club legend Frank Lampard, no less – isn't a bad way to impress the owner! No but seriously, Thomas Tuchel is brilliant.

The Blues beat Atletico Madrid, Porto, Real Madrid and Manchester City in the knockouts as they became kings of Europe for the second time. They only conceded twice in those matches; in fact, Edouard Mendy became the first goalkeeper to keep as many as nine clean sheets in his debut season in the competition.

From Tuchel's first match in charge until the end of 2020-21, no Premier League team lost fewer games (five), conceded fewer goals (16) or kept more clean sheets (19) across all competitions than Chelsea. It's worth remembering that, Thomas, if you really do think your title hopes are already over at the halfway stage of the season.

Live and let Daei

Football's greatest-of-all-time debate is likely to drag on until humanity has long since gone extinct, with nothing left of civilisation except decaying ruins and NFTs of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, most likely dressed as goats, stored on a giant blockchain server at the centre of the Earth (no, we don't understand it all, either).

We can at least agree on one non-fungible Ronaldo record, though: as of 2021, he is the leading international goalscorer in the history of men's football.

A brace against the Republic of Ireland on September 1 took him to 111 for Portugal, two more than previous record-holder Ali Daei of Iran. Ronaldo will start the World Cup year on 115 goals in 184 international appearances – but without the Ballon d'Or on his mantelpiece...

Gerd lord, another record

With practically the final kick of the 2020-21 Bundesliga season, Robert Lewandowski pounced on a loose ball to score his 41st league goal and break Gerd Muller's previous single-season record of 40, which had stood since 1972.

Not satisfied with the greatest goalscoring effort in Germany's top flight for nearly half a century, Lewandowski ended 2021 with 43 goals for the calendar year (in only 34 games), again surpassing a previous best tally set by Muller. During that run, he became the first player in the competition to score in 13 consecutive home matches, beating the 12-game runs of Jupp Heynckes and, yes, Muller. The late Bayern great's record of a goal in 16 Bundesliga games in a row still stands, though, Lewandowski having been stopped from matching it by the crossbar in a 3-1 win at Greuther Furth in September.

This year also saw the Bayern Munich striker reach 120 away goals in the Bundesliga, which is, you guessed it, another record. At least this one was previously held by a different name: Klaus Fischer, on 117. Muller is third on 115, for what it's worth.

Let's talk about six, baby 

Liverpool started the year boasting the second-longest unbeaten home run in the history of England's top division: they had gone 68 games without defeat after losing 2-1 to Crystal Palace in April 2017, a streak only bettered by Chelsea (86 games ending in October 2008).

Then, they lost 1-0 to Burnley at Anfield. Then, 1-0 to Brighton and Hove Albion at Anfield. After that came a 4-1 battering by Manchester City, an almost unthinkable 2-0 loss to Everton, and then another pair of 1-0 defeats, this time to Chelsea and Fulham... and all at Anfield.

Six consecutive home defeats: something never endured by any Liverpool team before, nor any reigning champion of England's top flight.

Pep-pered with records

City were top of the Premier League on Christmas Day for the third time in their history. They won the league on the previous two occasions (in 2011 and 2017), so the omens are positive for 2021-22 – not that they need much divine intervention right now.

The reigning champions, boasting a 10-match winning streak, broke the record for the most victories in a calendar year in England's top flight with their 34th of 2021 against Newcastle United this month. The previous best was 33 set by Bob Paisley's Liverpool in 1982.

In the process, Pep Guardiola's men also set a new top-tier record of 18 away wins in a single year, beating the previous best of 17 set by Bill Nicholson's famous Tottenham side of 1960-61. Oh, and their 112 goals scored in 2021 is the best such calendar-year return in the Premier League era.

An Argentine tango – and a Messi divorce

Lionel Messi ends 2021 with 23 goals and eight assists in LaLiga, the most direct goal involvements of any player aside from Karim Benzema (41). And he hasn't played in the competition since May.

Messi's tearful departure from Barcelona, who decided they simply couldn't afford to keep the player they previously couldn't afford to lose, heralded the end of an era in Spanish football. It hasn't gone particularly well for either party, either: Barca, who sacked Ronald Koeman in November, sit seventh in LaLiga, while Messi has scored one goal in 11 Ligue 1 games for Paris Saint-Germain.

Club football might have been more of a nightmare than a dream for Messi this year, but the same cannot be said for his international exploits. He was the joint-top goalscorer and the tournament's best player as Argentina finally ended their long wait for silverware, defeating Brazil 1-0 in the final of the Copa America. It was enough to secure Messi a record-extending seventh Ballon d'Or, even though he seemed to think Lewandowski actually deserved to win (and, let's be honest, a lot of us did).

It's a Lille bit funny...

Last season, Paris Saint-Germain replaced Tuchel with Mauricio Pochettino ostensibly so they might win the Champions League. Instead, while Tuchel took Chelsea to European glory within just five months, Pochettino's PSG could not even keep hold of their Ligue 1 crown.

Lille won the French top flight for the fourth time in their history, becoming only the fourth side to win it at least twice since the turn of the century (the others being PSG, of course, Monaco and Lyon). Their triumph was inspired by the late-career renaissance of Burak Yilmaz: his 16 league goals were the most scored by anyone over the age of 35 in Europe's top five leagues last season, with the exception of Cristiano Ronaldo (29).

While their title defence isn't going too swimmingly – Lille are eighth in the table after 19 games, 18 points behind leaders PSG – they managed to win their Champions League group for the first time in seven attempts. They also boast the top scorer in Ligue 1 this term: Jonathan David, who was an 11-year-old playing for Ottawa Gloucester Hornets when Lille won their third league title in 2011, has scored 12 times already.

Get Inter the spirit

This year saw Inter end their decade-long wait for the Scudetto and bring about the end of Juventus' recent stranglehold on Serie A.

Inspired by Antonio Conte – who started Juve's nine-year title streak back in 2012 – and league MVP Romelu Lukaku, the Nerazzurri finished 12 points clear at the top as their coach became the man with the best points-per-game ratio (2.26) in the modern history of Italy's top flight.

Despite a close-season of upheaval in which Conte walked, Lukaku returned to Chelsea and Achraf Hakimi went to PSG, Inter go into next year with a four-point advantage at the top and just one defeat in 19 league games, having scored over 100 league goals in a calendar year for the first time in their history.

Mancini's miracle

Italy's second European Championship trophy, secured courtesy of a penalty shoot-out win over England at Wembley, was the pinnacle of a quite remarkable run of results under Roberto Mancini.

The Azzurri would go on to set a new world record in men's international football of 37 matches without defeat, during which they won 30, scored 93 goals and conceded only 12. The run ended when they lost 2-1 to Spain in the Nations League semi-finals in Milan, marking their first competitive home defeat since 1999.

In the first 33 of those matches, starting from a 1-1 draw with Ukraine in October 2018, they were behind for only 44 minutes. At Euro 2020, they had five players who scored at least twice, they ended the tournament with a joint-high 13 goals and conceded only four. And yet, in 2022, they must navigate the play-offs – and potentially a meeting with Portugal – if they are to avoid failing to qualify for the World Cup for the second time in a row.

Palmeiras pull off the unbeliev-Abel

The Copa Libertadores final is not something Andreas Pereira will want to remember: it was the Manchester United loanee's error that allowed substitute Deyverson to win it for Palmeiras in extra time.

This was a historic result, though. Not only were Palmeiras the first team since Boca Juniors 20 years ago to win back-to-back Libertadores trophies, but Abel Ferreira became the only European coach to win the competition twice.

Before his time in Brazil, arguably Abel's finest achievement in his post-playing career was helping PAOK reach 51 league games unbeaten – although he was only actually in charge for 17 of those matches, including the 4-2 loss to Aris that brought the streak to an end.

Robert Lewandowski says he is paying no attention to speculation over his future as he eyes more glory for Bayern Munich.

The Poland striker, who has scored 30 goals in 25 appearances in all competitions this season, is contracted to the Bundesliga champions until June 2023

Appearing at the Globe Soccer Awards in Dubai on Monday, Lewandowski stated that he will not be distracted by "rumours" that he could look to leave Bayern.

"In my football life, I have always done what I have chosen," the 33-year-old said. "I can play for many more years.

"I haven't thought about the future in a few years. Maybe I can do it but now everything is going well, I'm focused on the season, on the next games, on what I want this season.

"Every year there are rumours, for me it's nothing new. I'm focused on the field, on training. It's difficult, if you hear all these voices.

"The important thing is to be happy where you are."

Lewandowski recently scored his 43rd league goal of 2021, beating the record set by the legendary Gerd Muller for most goals in the German top flight in a calendar year (42 goals in 1972).

However, the former Borussia Dortmund man was pipped to the main award in Dubai, just as he was when finishing runner-up to Lionel Messi in the voting for the Ballon d'Or last month.

The Globe Soccer men's player of the year award for 2021 instead went to Messi's Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Kylian Mbappe.

Lewandowski did win the fans' player of the year award, as well as the Maradona award for the best goalscorer.

Kylian Mbappe and Robert Lewandowski have expressed concerns about the lack of rest players will get if plans for a biennial World Cup come to fruition.

FIFA's proposal to host the tournament every two years instead of four has largely been met with scepticism.

Both Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe and Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski are not in favour of the change, with the former suggesting that the quality of the spectacle would suffer if the health of players is not taken into account. 

"We like to play but it's too much," Mbappe said in Dubai, where he was named men's player of the year at the Globe Soccer Awards. "If people want to see quality, we have to take a break.

"Playing the World Cup every two years would make this competition 'normal' and that shouldn't be the case. The World Cup, the Nations League... we love to play but it's too much.

"If people want to see quality, I think we have to take a break."

Lewandowski echoed the France international's sentiments, stating that the schedule is already congested even without the added burden of an increased number of World Cups.

"We have a lot of games in the year, very dense weeks," Lewandowski said at the same event. "If you want to give the fans something different, you need a break.

"We have to look into the future, if we want to play a World Cup every two years, the level will drop. It's impossible for the body and the mind to perform at the same level."

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski surpassed Gerd Muller's long-standing Bundesliga calendar-year scoring record with his second-half finish against Wolfsburg.

Muller found the net 42 times in the German top flight in 1972, but Lewandowski set a new record with his 43rd league goal of 2021.

Thomas Muller opened the scoring for Bayern after just seven minutes on Friday, while Lewandowski volleyed over as he searched for the landmark goal.

Dayot Upamecano and Leroy Sane netted the second and third goals for Julian Nagelsmann’s side, before Lewandowski’s milestone strike eventually arrived in the 87th minute when he smashed into the roof of the net following Jamal Musiala's header.

The Poland international has now scored 24 goals in 21 Bundesliga games against Wolfsburg, including a five-goal haul against them back in September 2015 in a 5-1 victory for the Bavarians.

Yet another landmark for Lewandowski caps a fantastic year in which the former Borussia Dortmund star won France Football's inaugural Striker of the Year award, after finishing second to Lionel Messi in the 2021 Ballon d'Or reckoning.

Lewandowski may have felt hard done by, given he has managed 58 goals in 2021 across all competitions – 15 more than any other player across Europe's top-five leagues, with Dortmund's Erling Haaland occupying second (43).

The Bayern talisman also leads the scoring charts across Europe this campaign, with 30 goals to his name in all competitions. Liverpool's Mohamed Salah is the next best with 22.

Worryingly for Wolfsburg, the 33-year-old may now eye another record for most goals against a single opponent in the Bundesliga, also held by Muller, who netted 27 times against Hamburg.

Julian Nagelsmann's side boast a healthy advantage over Dortmund at the top of the table heading into the mid-season break.

Thomas Muller starred on a milestone appearance and Robert Lewandowski broke a long-standing Gerd Muller record as Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich cruised to a 4-0 victory over Wolfsburg on Friday.

Muller marked his 400th top-flight outing for Bayern with the opening goal after seven minutes at the Allianz Arena, before the Germany international teed up Dayot Upamecano for a second after the interval.

Leroy Sane added a third for Julian Nagelsmann's side and Lewandowski was able to find a record 43rd league goal in 2021 to surpass Bayern legend's Gerd Muller's long-standing Bundesliga calendar-year scoring record as the hosts cruised to victory.
 
Leaders Bayern hold a nine-point advantage at the summit, with Dortmund – who play Hertha Berlin on Saturday – sat in second heading into the mid-season break.

Bayern were soon ahead when Muller poked home from close range after Koen Casteels had parried Serge Gnabry's strike, before Manuel Neuer thwarted Wout Weghorst at the other end.

Jamal Musiala almost doubled Bayern's lead but dragged wide, while Casteels denied Lewandowski's header from point-blank range.

Muller delicately chipped for Upamecano to head into the bottom-left corner after the interval, with Sane expertly curling in via the left post just two minutes later.

Lewandowski then had two opportunities to break Gerd Muller's benchmark, but wastefully prodded over with the first before an excellent Casteels save denied him from the second.

The Poland striker eventually managed his landmark finish when Musiala selflessly headed across goal for the Poland striker to volley in as Bayern eased to victory.


What does it mean? Bayern title favourites again heading into mid-season break

Bayern, who have not lost any of their last 25 home league matches against Wolfsburg, once again head into the mid-season break top of the Bundesliga – this time leading by at least six points, with Dortmund set to play their game in hand against Hertha Berlin on Saturday.

In the three points-per-win era, the Bavarians have won the title in 14 of the 15 seasons when they have been at the summit at the halfway point. By contrast, Wolfsburg have now lost seven consecutive competitive matches.

Gnabry the Great

Muller and Lewandowski seemingly steal the plaudits most weeks, but Gnabry's dominant performance should not go under the radar.

The Germany winger not only provided an assist but also laid on a team-leading three chances – along with full-back Alphonso Davies and Musiala – as he ensured a torrid game for Yannick Gerhardt at left wing-back.

Woeful Weghorst

Weghorst wasted a glorious opportunity to equalise immediately after Muller's opener and that set the tone for a frustrating performance from the striker.

The Netherlands international cut an isolated figure up top, winning just over a third of his 14 duels, while relinquishing possession a team-high 18 times.

What's next?

The Bundesliga now takes a break until 2022. Bayern return to action at home to Borussia Monchengladbach on January 7, while Wolfsburg visit Bochum two days later. 

Julian Nagelsmann declared he is "incredibly satisfied" with life as Bayern Munich head coach and urged his team to go into the winter break on a high.

Nagelsmann replaced Hansi Flick at the Bavarian club in July and has led them to the top of the Bundesliga with 13 victories from their first 16 games, as well as winning each of their six Champions League group stage fixtures.

The low point of the 34-year-old's tenure at the club came on October 27, when Bayern suffered a shock 5-0 defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach in the DFB-Pokal.

However, Bayern bounced back to win nine of their subsequent 10 games in all competitions, opening up a six-point lead over Borussia Dortmund in the process, and Nagelsmann is pleased with his side at this stage.

Bayern host 11th-placed Wolfsburg on Friday, with the visitors on a run of six straight defeats in all competitions. It is the final game for Bayern before their mid-season break.

"We played a very good first half of the season, I want to go into tomorrow's game highly concentrated in order to keep the distance [at the top of the table]," Nagelsmann said.

"Of course, we had a very big damper, but it also triggered a certain process in us that no team in the world is infallible. That was a little damper for the first half of the season, which put a little shadow over it, but not in such a way that there is no light."

Bayern have scored 52 goals in their first 16 games of the Bundesliga – a record for such an opening stretch. They have also never lost a home Bundesliga clash with Wolfsburg in 24 past such meetings, winning 22 of those. No other team in Bundesliga history has faced an opponent as often at home without ever losing, Opta said.

Star striker Robert Lewandowski has scored 42 Bundesliga goals in 2021 and would break Gerd Muller's calendar year record (also 42 goals) from 1972 if he scores against Wolfsburg. Worryingly for Wolfsburg, Lewandowski has scored 23 goals in 20 Bundesliga games against them – including his only five-goal haul in the top flight.

In Bundesliga history, only Gerd Muller scored more goals against a single opponent – 27 goals against Hamburg.

Lewandowski's prowess has been one of many aspects that have added up to a successful year for Bayern, and a lively start for Nagelsmann.

"There were many high victories, many emotional moments," said the former RB Leipzig boss. "I am incredibly satisfied, as I am in the club and with the fans, I took on a great team, took on a great staff.

"I love this job at Bayern Munich, I love the city, I enjoy being on the site every day."

Could Bayern Munich really part with Robert Lewandowski?

The 33-year-old talisman has broken all kinds of records in Munich, but he is not getting any younger.

With Erling Haaland the face of a new era, Bayern may be tempted for the Borussia Dortmund star to lead the way.

 

TOP STORY – LEWANDOWSKI OUT, HAALAND IN?

Bayern Munich could sell Robert Lewandowski to raise funds for in-demand Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, according to Sport Bild.

Bundesliga champions Bayern are planning with Lewandowski for the future, though they have reportedly not written off the idea of bringing in Haaland, who has been linked with Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester United.

Should Bayern and Lewandowski not agree to a new deal, the Poland international is believed to be interested in a switch to the Premier League or PSG.

As for Bayern, they feel cashing in on Lewandowski for around €60million would help in landing Haaland, who has a release clause of €75m.

Bayern are also eyeing Barca's Ousmane Dembele, while Inter's Lautaro Martinez, Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic and Juventus star Federico Chiesa are among their alternative options.

 

ROUND-UP

- Eurosport claims LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid want to bring in wantaway United forward Anthony Martial in a swap deal.

Barca and Atletico are interested in Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta, says Sport. Azpilicueta is a free agent at the end of the season. Chelsea team-mate Antonio Rudiger is also set to become available on a free transfer.

- Calciomercato reports PSG are eyeing a move for Bayern forward Kingsley Coman. The 25-year-old Frenchman made three appearances for PSG before leaving the capital in 2014.

- Salzburg sensation Karim Adeyemi is wanted by Barca, Inter and Liverpool but the Germany international wants a move to Dortmund, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Julian Nagelsmann hailed the "outstanding" Serge Gnabry after he scored a hat-trick in Bayern Munich's 5-0 thrashing of Stuttgart.

Gnabry marked his first start for almost a month with a superb display, helping himself to a treble and laying on the other two goals for Robert Lewandowski in the city where he was born.

The Germany forward gave Bayern a 1-0 half-time lead and they ran riot after the break, scoring three times in the space of five minutes behind closed doors at Mercedes-Benz Arena on Tuesday.

Gnabry was directly involved in five goals in a competitive match for only the second time in his career, with the only previous instance coming in the 7-2 win at Tottenham in October 2019 - when he scored four and provided one assist

Victory in Julian Nagelsmann's 200th Bundesliga match as a head coach put the champions nine points clear at the top of the table.

Nagelsmann lauded Gnabry, who has had to bide his time to force his way back into the team after a spell in quarantine and has also been hampered by an injury.

The Bayern head coach said: "He is an outstanding player who is currently struggling with his back and therefore maybe gets a tad less minutes than he deserves.

"He did very, very well today."

It was another devastating performance from the Bavarian giants, but there was concern when they lost Kingsley Coman to an injury in the first half

Nagelsmann said of the France winger: "We don't have an exact diagnosis for him yet. It's a muscular issue. We're hoping that it's nothing serious."

Lewandowski's double took him level with the great Gerd Muller on a record 41 goals in a calendar year in the German top flight.

Serge Gnabry scored a hat-trick and laid on a double for Robert Lewandowski as Bayern Munich moved nine points clear at the top of the Bundesliga with a 5-0 thrashing of Stuttgart.

Gnabry, making his first start for almost a month, opened the scoring in the first half and clinically doubled the champions lead after the break behind closed doors at Mercedes-Benz Arena on Tuesday.

The outstanding Gnabry then set Lewandowski up twice and completed his treble as the leaders ran riot in Julian Nagelsmann's 200th Bundesliga match as coach, scoring three times in the space of five second-half minutes.

Bayern lost Kingsley Coman to an apparent hamstring injury, but cruised to a sixth consecutive victory in all competitions.

Gnabry was a livewire from the start and he flashed an early shot across the face of the Stuttgart goal before Lewandowski fired straight at goalkeeper Florian Muller.

Omar Marmoush dragged a tame strike wide against the run of play before Gnabry put the champions in front, finding the back of the net with a classy first-time right-foot finish after Leroy Sane - on for the injured Coman - set him up five minutes before the break.

Stuttgart showed plenty of endeavour following the interval but Gnabry struck again in the 53rd minute, taking a pass from Thomas Muller and beating Marc Oliver Kempf before calmly slotting home with his left foot.

Gnabry then turned provider, picking out Lewandowski with a superb pass which the striker controlled on his chest and raced into the box before nonchalantly lifting the ball over the advancing Stuttgart keeper and into the net.

The same pair combined again as Lewandowski was on hand to slot home inside the six-yard box from a Gnabry cross.

Gnabry then capped a brilliant performance by tucking in from close range after the busy Muller could only palm into his path with 16 minutes to go.

Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain each have four nominees in the 23-man shortlist for the FIFA FIFPRO Men's World 11 for 2021.

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson and full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold are also included, although there is no place for Mohamed Salah.

PSG's attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are among the forwards, as is Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo.

Veteran Dani Alves also won enough votes to make the list, even though the 38-year-old, who recently rejoined Barcelona, only played 16 times in domestic competition in Brazil this year.

Professional footballers across the world were asked to vote for the three players they considered to have the best seasons during the 2020-21 season among goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and forwards.

FIFPRO said: "For the first time in 17 years, FIFPRO is updating the announcement about the most-voted players, reducing the shortlist from 55 to 23. This has been done to resemble a real-life 'squad' which, usually for international competitions, is the number of players involved. 

"The three goalkeepers, six defenders, six midfielders and six forwards with the most votes earned a place in the 23-men World 11 'squad'. To complete this elite selection, the two remaining outfield players with the most votes were added."

The keeper, three defenders, three midfielders and three forwards with the most votes will be chosen for the World 11, with the remaining spot assigned to the outfield player with the next highest number of votes.

The final 11 will be announced at The Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony on January 17.

 

FIFA FIFPRO MEN'S WORLD 11 23-PLAYER SHORTLIST:

Goalkeepers:
Alisson (Liverpool, Brazil)
Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan/Paris Saint-Germain, Italy)
Edouard Mendy (Chelsea, Senegal)

Defenders:
David Alaba (Bayern Munich/Real Madrid, Austria)
Jordi Alba (Barcelona, Spain)
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool, England)
Dani Alves (Sao Paulo/Barcelona, Brazil)
Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus, Italy)
Ruben Dias (Manchester City, Portugal)

Midfielders:
Sergio Busquets (Barcelona, Spain)
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City, Belgium)
Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United, Portugal)
Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona, The Netherlands)
Jorginho (Chelsea, Italy)
N'Golo Kante (Chelsea, France)

Forwards:
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid, France)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus/Manchester United, Portugal)
Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund, Norway)
Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich, Poland)
Romelu Lukaku (Inter/Chelsea, Belgium)
Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain, France)
Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Paris Saint-Germain, Argentina)
Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain, Brazil)

Bayern Munich are not interested in Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland and "will think twice" about signing Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele, according to Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

German champions Bayern were this week named as one of four clubs realistically capable of signing Haaland by the player's agent Mino Raiola, along with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester City.

Raiola clarified those comments by insisting Haaland is not yet thinking about leaving Dortmund, but the Norway international – reported to have a €75million buy-out clause that will kick in at the end of the season – continues to be linked with a move away.

However, with Robert Lewandowski in fantastic form and under contract until the end of the 2022-23 season, Rummenigge does not believe Bayern will attempt to poach Haaland from Bundesliga rivals Dortmund next year.

"FC Bayern will not try to get Haaland," the former Bayern chairman told Bild TV. "Not just for financial reasons, but also out of respect and appreciation for Robert Lewandowski, who's the best number nine in the world."

Since Haaland's debut for Dortmund on January 18 last year, Lewandowski (100) is the only player in Europe's top five leagues to have scored more goals than the former Salzburg striker (74) across all competitions.

 

Haaland is not the only big-name player to have been touted as a possible target for Bayern, with Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele also said to be on the Bundesliga leaders' radar heading into 2022.

Dembele will become a free agent at the end of the season and is free to sign a pre-contract agreement with a new club from January, but Rummenigge cannot see a place for the France international in a star-studded Bayern side.

"I was a big fan when he played for Dortmund. He was a great player," Rummenigge said.

"Since then he's not been the same. Bayern have [Kingsley] Coman, [Leroy] Sane, [Serge] Gnabry and [Jamal] Musiala, all of whom are at a higher level at the moment.

"Although Dembele will be a free agent, there will be a big signing-on fee involved. For financial reasons, I think FC Bayern will think twice about it."

Dembele's time at Barcelona has been blighted by fitness issues, but he remains a key player for the Catalan giants when available.

He has managed 30 goals and 20 assists in 123 appearances in all competitions since joining from Dortmund in August 2017 and has been directly involved in 0.65 goals per 90 minutes.

For context, that puts Dembele on a par with Bayern forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and ahead of Coman (0.63) over that period, but behind Musiala (0.73), Gnabry (0.78) and Sane (0.9).

Robert Lewandowski has continued with business as usual despite disappointment at the 2021 Ballon d'Or awards, according to Bayern Munich head coach Julian Nagelsmann.

Lewandowski had to settle for second place and an inaugural Striker of the Year accolade at the France Football award ceremony, with Lionel Messi collecting a record-extending seventh crown.

The Bayern striker may have felt hard done by, given he has scored 14 more times than any other player in Europe's top five leagues in 2021, with 55 goals across all competitions to his name so far.

The Poland international also missed out last year due to the coronavirus-enforced cancellation of the 2020 Ballon d'Or, which he was favourite for after breaking Gerd Muller's long-standing Bundesliga record following 41 goals in 29 league games last term.

But Nagelsmann insisted that Lewandowski – who again leads Europe's top five leagues with 27 goals this term across all competitions, seven more than second-placed Mohamed Salah – has not let the Ballon d'Or snub impact his performances.

"I haven't noticed a big change in terms of hunger for goals, regardless of the Ballon d'Or decision or new records," Nagelsmann, whose side face Mainz on Saturday, told reporters at his pre-match news conference.

"I think he was in an incredibly good mood lately with very good body language. He also does his job defensively very neatly. I think he just wants to be successful with FC Bayern."

 

Bayern, inspired by the likes of Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry, sit four points clear of Borussia Dortmund at the top of the Bundesliga as the reigning champions prepare to host Mainz.

Nagelsmann is also eyeing a landmark of his own, with a potential 100th Bundesliga win awaiting him in just his 199th game as a top-flight boss.

Should he do so, he will become the fastest to a century in the German top flight but the former RB Leipzig head coach claimed he did not even know he was approaching a milestone as he praised his team's recent efforts.

"Thanks for the memory, I didn't even know that," he added. "That's a nice number, I'm happy.

"The players are in a good mood, I think. The atmosphere is also good on the pitch and in the dressing room. 

"I think we have mastered the difficult autumn quite well so far, even with the many injuries and failures. We want to win the rest of the games and keep the gap to Dortmund in the league. We will drive ahead with full speed."

Nagelsmann, however, will be without Joshua Kimmich, who will miss the remainder of 2021 with a lung problem as he continues to recover from coronavirus.

But the Bayern head coach defended his player, who is yet to be vaccinated for COVID-19, after suggestions Kimmich was causing problems.

"Basically, it's always good if you ask him that yourself," he continued. "Of course, as a thoroughbred athlete, he always wants to be on the pitch, especially because he's always been fit. 

"You have to allow opinions here in Germany. He has made his decision, you have to accept it."

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