How Bayern Munich's Manuel Neuer bounced back as one of the world's best goalkeepers - Expert View
Manuel Neuer was ruled out for over a year between March 2017 and April 2018 with a succession of foot injuries that put his career at risk, but he came back stronger than ever and was an integral part of Bayern's treble-winning 19/20 season. Our German football expert Florian Bogner explains why Neuer, 35, is still one of the world's best goalkeepers.
There was a flood of criticism when Joachim Low handed Manuel Neuer the No.1 jersey for the 2018 World Cup. Not only had Neuer failed to perform to an outstanding level since returning from injury, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen had done everything right to earn the jersey.
However, the debate was soon overshadowed by the poor overall performance from Germany that saw them booted out in Russia earlier than ever before. But as the dust settled, a question surfaced: could Neuer rediscover his old level?
It definitely took some time. But with his performances in the 2019-20 season for Bayern, he showed he was still one of the best goalkeepers in the world – if not the best.
How Bayern helped him bounce back
People wondered if he could get back to his old level – but he did. What can we say about that? Well, he’s mentally very strong, a calm presence and always knows what to do. The environment at Bayern helped a lot because they were patient with him. They had no doubt that he would be outstanding again and that surely helped.
He also had his goalkeeper coach Toni Tapalovic, who is basically his personal coach and always by his side. They’ve known each other since Schalke and are friends – they even go on holidays together. This relationship and deep understanding, their mutual trust, surely helped.
Mentally, he is very strong. Neuer knows exactly what he needs to practise to get to the highest possible level. He has had his off-pitch episodes (breaking up with his wife, singing a nationalist Croatian song on holiday), but generally speaking he’s a very down to earth, normal guy from Gelsenkirchen.
He knows his roots and is humble about his achievements. He doesn’t make a huge fuss about himself. He is not particularly extravagant and could even be perceived as boring… but in a good way.
Manuel Neuer, captain of FC Bayern Munich lifts the UEFA Champions League Trophy following his team's victory in the UEFA Champions League Final match between Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich at Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica on August 23, 2020 in
Image credit: Getty Images
Why he is a unique goalkeeper
Aside from his mental strength, his biggest asset is his capacity to produce outstanding reflex saves from close-range. He is also fearless without ever straying to recklessness.
You will rarely see him jump in on a striker, and risk hurting himself, but he always comes out big when it comes to one-on-one situations. Last, but by no means least, he is also very capable with both feet and has a brilliant ability to anticipate.
He is comfortable playing as an eleventh outfield player and capable of handling every situation with intelligence, cutting out many dangerous moments by playing aggressively and clearing balls well outside his penalty area.