There are people who falsely claim that Manuel Neuer didn’t have much to do in his comeback on Saturday. In reality, the FC Bayern goalkeeper jumped into the air in celebration eight times, turned halfway around each time and pumped his fist after landing – and then there was that miraculous foot save in the first half.
Marvin Mehlem from Darmstadt took the shot, unmolested and free in front of the goal. A goal like this is 7.32 meters wide and 2.44 meters high, and as a shooter you usually ask the goalkeeper: “Where would you like it to go?”
But Manuel Neuer is not a normal goalkeeper. The goal became smaller and smaller for Mehlem and larger and larger for Neuer. It was a bit like that famous old TV commercial in which a penalty taker, seeing Olli Kahn in the box in front of him, turns around mid-run and runs away. At least Mehlem still had the courage to shoot. But the giant Neuer flew towards him at full width and height, otherwise Darmstadt would have led 1-0 in the next moment and not lost 0-8 in the end.
Manuel Neuer is making himself bigger and bigger
Source: dpa/Tom Weller
If the TV pictures aren’t misleading, Neuer even used his tibia and fibula, which he broke while skiing almost a year ago, to defend against the powerful shot. In short: the leg holds.
When will it rust?
Is the new guy the same again? In any case, the images of the rescue act could have been accompanied by music with the unforgettable song “He’s back” by Katja Ebstein. It’s back – you come across this title again and again when comebacks have to be sung about or filmed. Also worthy of spontaneous mention is the film comedy “He’s back”, in which Adolf Hitler suddenly reappears in Berlin 69 years after the Second World War, as if out of nowhere, and has great problems regaining his footing in the changed world. He was just gone too long.
Now Neuer is back, but he was also gone for a very long time. That was his first game in eleven months, and he’s already 37, so he’s slowly getting to the age where life takes its toll on a footballer. The biggest doubters consider him to be a discontinued model, list his incessant injuries, from the acromioclavicular joint to the metatarsal to the tibia and fibula, and cheekily ask: When will he be ready for a scrappage bonus, when will he completely rust through, when will he lose the exhaust pipe ?
Because no prisoners are taken anymore in discussions on social networks, Neuer even has to read things about himself that have nothing to do with his performance or class as a goalkeeper. For example, a Torsten K. complained here in the WELT forum over the weekend that he “enjoyed his time without playing, counted his millions and grinned broadly in his hospital bed, showing off his leg in a cast and holding out his thumb.”
There are two categories of Neuer skeptics: Some don’t begrudge him a comeback, and others no longer trust him to do so – and think of the tragic outcome for Axel Schulz.
He almost became heavyweight world champion in the prime of his boxing career; his best fight was against George Foreman. Later he took a break and only did things that were healthier than boxing: Schulz became a TV commentator, advertised corkscrews on his baseball cap, wrote a book about pasta dishes, played the corpse in a “crime scene” and moaned in the face of every boxing ring: “Thank God I never have to go in there.” But unfortunately he went back in and was almost killed during his comeback – at least he had previously felt more comfortable as a corpse in the “crime scene”.
Bayern fans are divided on the Neuer issue
Many people now say that Manuel Neuer should have stopped too. Even Bayern fans have recently been more divided in polls than they have been since 2011, when masses of pieces of paper were held up in the Allianz Arena saying “Koan Neuer!” The unloved one came anyway, and only when he turned out to be “by far the best goalkeeper in the world” (Franz Beckenbauer) did things calm down. Now the question arises as to whether Neuer can become the best goalkeeper in the world again at 37, and perhaps the fans should leave the search for the right answer to the experts this time, ideally Sepp Maier, their legendary “Cat of Anzing”. The former world champion already predicted last week: “Neuer will rise like a phoenix from the ashes, all the discussions about him will fall silent again.”
“Koan Neuer”: The goalkeeper came anyway and is still there
Quelle: picture alliance/Christina Pahnke/sampics
Maier knows it. Because he wasn’t a fan, but a goalkeeper, and he feels: If Neuer is healthy, it doesn’t matter if he’s 37 on paper, he’ll always be 27 in goal, like Dino Zoff or Gianluigi Buffon, the eternally young Italians, used to be. He is still the perfect goalkeeper. With his Robinsonades and his control of the penalty area, he stays tight at the back, intercepts the opponent’s counterattacks with a header in the depths of the area and can open the game virtuosically with both feet and hit precise through balls. And even if he is only as good in eight out of ten games in the future as he was in 2014, he would still be a gift – back then, the DFB team would not have become world champions without him, but would have been miserably eliminated in the round of 16 against Algeria and would have been eliminated on their return in the Home was welcomed with tomatoes and flying tropical fruits of all kinds – Neuer was honored by the then national goalkeeping coach Andy Köpke as the “best libero since Franz Beckenbauer”.
Kane sees Neuer as “one of the best goalkeepers in history”
Harry Kane still sees it that way today. The Bavarian from London values Neuer as “one of the best goalkeepers in history”, including his personality and charisma on teammates and opponents. Bayern coach Thomas Tuchel said it all with three precise sentences these days: “What I notice in training is a completely new level of goalkeeping. Manuel makes every defender and his fellow goalkeepers stronger. This is in a league of its own.”
In any case, Neuer can now be the first to get off the Bayern bus again. And is captain again. And he is even in contact with the national coach again. “He wished me luck before the game,” says the returnee. This is more than a polite gesture, this is a forward-looking strategy. At the end of their time together at Bayern, the two of them were probably no longer on the same page because Nagelsmann no longer placed any greater value on the continued cooperation of the goalkeeper coach and new confidant Topalovic. But now Nagelsmann is the national coach – and Neuer may soon be the best German goalkeeper again.
Tense relationship: Julian Nagelsmann (r.) and Neuer
Quelle: picture alliance/SvenSimon/Frank Hoermann/SVEN SIMON
The news of the congratulations must have reached Barcelona in a flash on Saturday. In any case, there is no other explanation for the unfortunate figure with which Marc-Andre ter Stegen shortly afterwards decided the Spanish classic against Real Madrid in the Catalans’ goal – at 1:2, the specialist magazine “Kicker” describes, he got the ball “through the “Suspenders” pushed. Nevertheless, looking at the German goal, Neuer says of his colleague Ter Stegen: “I think he is currently number one.”
However, the emphasis is on current. Beyond that, only one thing is certain: Manuel Neuer will be a force to be reckoned with again – if he doesn’t ski again in winter.