Manuel Neuer saw the international matches last week while on vacation. Although: “Holiday” is actually not correct. Neuer calls it a “change of air”. The 37-year-old is currently not thinking about rest or relaxation at all.
After breaking his tibia and fibula on December 9, 2022, the goalkeeper worked for weeks in FC Bayern’s performance wing: stabilization exercises, treadmill with reduced own weight, catching exercises. On May 9th, Neuer was on the pitch for the first time. Now he left Munich for a short time, but he has a training plan with him for the days that are actually free. For this, Neuer not only has his rehabilitation plans from the Bayern fitness trainers. According to information from WELT, the goalkeeper also works with sports scientist Matthias Blankenburg. Neuer has his own coach for the comeback.
“There were many critical voices, both internally and in the media. That was a motivation for Manuel: to show everyone again that he can return to his old strength,” says Bayern legend and ex-national goalkeeper Sepp Maier (79).
The current state of affairs: Even if a few muscle groups tweak from time to time during the exercises and Neuer sometimes runs out of balance, he is right on schedule. His ambitious goal: he wants to be on the pitch for the start of training on July 13th and take part in all the exercises.
Neuer knows that his position has been strengthened despite the months of absence: the national team is reeling like a battered boxer and urgently needs him as a leader. His representative Marc-André ter Stegen made a 1-0 loss against Poland. At Bayern, Neuer is rid of his adversary Julian Nagelsmann. And his best friend, the ousted goalkeeping coach Toni Tapalovic, is about to return. Neuer has been fighting for his power in recent months. He won this fight on all levels.
Sommer and Nübel have no chance
For a long time, FC Bayern planned the time after the man who became world goalkeeper five times. Before the new season, it now looks as if all potential replacement candidates or successors are looking to flee: Yann Sommer, who came from Gladbach in winter for nine million euros as a new representative, was not able to convince. The 34-year-old Swiss needs match practice before the European Championship. If it becomes apparent in the pre-season that Neuer is regaining his old fitness, he wants to leave. It is fitting that Sommer explains cautiously about his future: “It’s all too far away, I’ll deal with my future after the holidays.”
Alexander Nübel, who was hired as a possible successor in 2020, knows that a return makes no sense as long as Neuer is playing. Most recently, the 26-year-old goalkeeper was loaned to Monaco, and there should be a transfer in the summer. “I am in exchange with FC Bayern and looking for a club,” admits Nübel consultant Stefan Backs in an interview with WELT: “The change must fit and mean the next step for Alex. We’re trying to find a solution.” Nübel wants to play internationally, and a buyback clause for Bayern should be anchored at the new club.
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Sommer also noticed what Nübel felt immediately in Munich: There is a goalkeeper clique in the club that sticks together. And in the end it was one of the reasons why Nagelsmann failed. The sworn community that has held together for years: Neuer, Tapalovic and substitute keeper Sven Ulreich (34). A small bubble in the club that Nagelsmann was unable to penetrate.
On the contrary: the trainer had the feeling that Tapalovic was passing on the contents of the trainer talks to Neuer. That wasn’t what he wanted. The players, even the captain, don’t need to know everything the coaches are talking about. There were increasing problems between Neuer and Nagelsmann. Tapalovic’s dismissal during the injury phase ensured that the relationship was finally broken. Neuer found drastic words, explained in an interview: “I had the feeling that my heart was being ripped out.” With that, Neuer not only messed with Nagelsmann, but with the entire executive floor. A huge bang in Munich.
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It was Neuer himself who then approached Hasan Salihamidzic. He wants to talk. In the kitchen in the training wing, the goalkeeper poured his heart out to the sports director at the time. He slept badly, the whole thing affected him very much. He did not want to formulate his criticism so harshly. He now wants to fix that. After the clarifying conversation, Salihamidzic and Neuer exchanged ideas more and more often. The goalkeeper did not have to pay a penalty.
When the bosses Kahn and Salihamidzic met the team council before the season finale and committed themselves to the last games, it was Salihamidzic who sought a conversation with Neuer. He definitely wanted to have him there as captain, to know his opinion on the sporting crisis.
“It’s important that you’re there,” Salihamidzic told the captain. “You are important in the dressing room.” For Neuer, a sign that the conflict was finally off the table. In the round with Thomas Müller, Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and Kingsley Coman, the goalkeeper held back for a long time before speaking up: “I’m not playing, but of course I have an opinion on it.”
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Neuer always did that during the long injury break: he sought contact with his colleagues, explained his point of view and often showed up in the dressing room. Accordingly, there was no debate among the players that Neuer – although he was injured and only played twelve league games last season – received the championship trophy after the last-minute drama in Cologne (2-1).
Tapalovic will return
While Salihamidzic and Nagelsmann are now history at Bayern, Neuer is about to return. And with him buddy Tapalovic. The goalkeeping coach’s contract lasted. Now he should definitely be integrated back into the club. The role has not yet been finally clarified, it is very likely that he will become Neuer’s confidante again – also on the pitch. There should be some kind of division of labor with the newly hired goalkeeping coach Michaelrechner.
President Herbert Hainer recently confirmed: “We are talking to Toni Tapalovic.” A logical step for Sepp Maier: “It would be FC Bayern’s best move to bring Toni back. He is a good man – and good men should be counted on! One trainer more or less is not important on the training ground. He knows Manuel like no other!”
Coach Thomas Tuchel has no reservations about Tapalovic. Neuer is in constant contact with the coach during the summer break. Tuchel senses Neuer’s motivation. He knows about his ability to organize a defense, to give it security. The defensive association of Bayern is in transition, Neuer could become even more important as a constant there. While teammates Lucas Hernández and Benjamin Pavard are considering a change of club, Neuer’s thoughts are going in a different direction.
His credo is: He can add the breaks caused by injuries to the end of his career. So play until the age of 40 or more. Since the 2017/18 season alone, Neuer has been out for a total of more than 700 days, i.e. almost two years. The fact that his power has not suffered as a result – on the contrary, his status has increased – is indicative of the value of the DFB and Bayern captain.
The text was written for the sports competence center (WELT, “Sport Bild”, “Bild”) and first published in “Sport Bild”.