Son the day he worked diligently on his return. Manuel Neuer, 36, completed his rehabilitation program at FC Bayern headquarters, while his teammates traveled to Lower Saxony, where they will play VfL Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga game this Sunday (5:30 p.m., DAZN).
After breaking his lower leg, the goalkeeper won’t be able to play again until summer at the earliest. And yet almost everyone in the football industry is talking about him this weekend, even beyond the borders of Germany. In a congruent interview with the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” and “The Athletic” he caused a stir. The sorting out of his long-time goalkeeping coach Toni Tapalovic was “the most blatant” thing he has experienced in his career, said Neuer. In January, the club released Tapalovic, citing differences in the type of cooperation as the reason. “It was a blow for me when I was already on the ground,” Neuer said: “I felt like my heart was being ripped out.”
The Bavarians had just caught up in sport, after three 1-1 draws in a row on Wednesday they won 4-0 at Mainz 05 in the DFB-Pokal. After turbulent weeks, things finally calmed down a bit, but things are getting lively again ahead of the kick-off in Wolfsburg. Club boss Oliver Kahn, 53, reacted to the criticism on Friday evening without having spoken to the captain again beforehand. What Neuer said in connection with Tapalovic’s release “does neither do justice to him as captain nor to the values of FC Bayern”. In addition, his statements came at the wrong time, “because we are facing very important games”. Kahn announced clear talks, there is speculation about a fine.
Sports director Hasan Salihamidzic, 46, said “Bild am Sonntag”: “I understand that Manuel is personally affected. But I would have expected a different behavior from him, especially as a captain.” . But we will discuss this internally with him sensibly.” So far, there has been no discussion about possible financial losses. After Neuer’s accident on a holiday ski tour, a discussion about a possible salary waiver arose.
Return of Hollywood FC
Sky expert Dietmar Hamann, 49, said about Neuer’s statements: “Some of these quotes are simply embarrassing for me. It’s about his own vanity, he puts himself first and not the club.” When asked whether Neuer would ever play for Bayern again, Hamann replied: “Rather not.” But Neuer has been written off several times – and kept coming back.
So far this year, the German record champions have earned their nickname from a decade ago: FC Hollywood. Tapalovic’ release, Serge Gnabry’s trip to Paris Fashion Week including shooting photos on Instagram and now Neuer’s criticism – there is unrest. The top of the club has its part in it: Even the timing of Tapalovic’s dismissal is by no means considered happy by everyone around the club.
Neuer criticizes the interpersonal relationship in the club and questions the “FC Bayern family” and the basic values that are particularly important to Honorary President Uli Hoeneß, 71. He emphasizes that he has not heard a bad word about Tapalovic in all these years: “Ask Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti or Niko Kovac.” It sounds as if Nagelsmann and his coaching staff are responsible for the separation, as has already been speculated.
New action reminiscent of Lahm
The goalkeeper did not, as usual, have the interviews authorized by the club before they were published. The procedure is reminiscent of Philipp Lahm: he also criticized the club’s management in 2010. The Bavarians then sentenced him to a fine “of the kind that FC Bayern Munich has never seen before,” said the then CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
The interview sparked a debate about whether senior players are allowed to publicly criticize their club and purchasing policies. Those responsible for the club were surprised by Neuer’s interviews, but hardly by his opinion. In the past few weeks, the captain first sought personal talks with the bosses and only then went public. Kahn and Salihamidzic apparently didn’t manage to appease him. Neuer’s statements show what a heavy blow the end of working with the goalkeeping coach at the club was for him. His choice of words makes it clear how much he had accumulated in the past few weeks.
Neuer’s approach is a big topic among the fans. Some are praising Neuer’s loyalty to Tapalovic, who is also his best man. Others speak of ingratitude towards the club. Kahn and Salihamidzic protected Neuer after his accident on a private ski tour. As captain of the national team and Bayern Neuer is probably the most powerful player in Germany. Apparently it was essential for him to get his point across. He accepts the fact that he will cause unrest before the groundbreaking games in the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain. In a week, the round of 16 first leg will take place in the French capital.
Neuer also followed how the goalkeeper Alexander Nübel, 26, who was loaned to AS Monaco, recently commented on ZDF. Nübel had criticized Tapalovic there – also without consulting Bayern. He rarely got in touch with him. That too was public criticism – of a trainer and, in a way, of a manager. Neuer wants to play again after this season. Then there could be competition at Bayern with Yann Sommer, 34, in the national team with Marc-André ter Stegen, 30, and Kevin Trapp, 32. “The best will play,” said Neuer in the interview, “if I If I want to play, I have to be the best. It’s always been that way.”
Coach Nagelsmann under pressure
Bayern don’t look like a unit at the moment. With Nagelsmann predecessor Hansi Flick, 57, now national coach, Neuer already had a relationship of trust in Munich. Flick promoted Tapalovic to assistant coach at Bayern. Neuer now said he wanted to work “professionally” with Nagelsmann. That sounds cool. But Neuer also emphasized: “I protect our belongings and will never get in the way. Because I’m a team player and as captain I have a special responsibility.”
Nagelsmann’s handling of the Neuer case is one of the biggest challenges for him in his coaching career so far. He is particularly in focus. The players noted that Nagelsmann was late for a brunch with the team recently because he still had work to do. Neuer’s drastic words should have an impact on the cooperation with Nagelsmann and the mood in the team. The peace in the cabin is at stake, the tension is enormous.
Neuer’s contract with Bayern runs until June 30, 2024. His statements this weekend send the signal: I can still be counted on – as a goalkeeper and as spokesman for the team. “I’m still here,” said Neuer, “although some people may feel they’re fed up with the old players.”