Last year he was sparring with Marc-Andre ter Stegen to be Germany’s No 1 and looked in terminal decline after the 2018 World Cup horror show… now at 34, Manuel Neuer is back on top as the world’s best goalkeeper after leading Bayern Munich to four trophies
- Bayern Munich captain Manuel Neuer is back to his best between the sticks
- Neuer, 34, led his club to Champions League and Bundesliga glory last season
- He has also been nominated to win the UEFA’s Men’s Player of the Year award
- A couple years prior, hardly anyone considered him world’s best goalkeeper
Bayern Munich captain Manuel Neuer is back to his best and is ageing like a fine wine between the sticks for the European champions.
The 34-year-old was on top form on Thursday as Bayern Munich won the UEFA Super Cup against Sevilla thanks to an extra-time goal from Javi Martinez. His heroics in Budapest topped off a sensational few months for the Bayern goalkeeper, who led his side to Champions League and Bundesliga glory.
It’s also been a great season for him on a personal level, as he has been nominated for UEFA’s Player of the Year award against team-mate Robert Lewandowski and Kevin de Bruyne.
Bayern Munich captain Manuel Neuer is back to his best and is ageing like a fine wine
The goalkeeper led his side to Champions League and Bundesliga glory in recent months
However, rewind two years and the picture is not quite as rosy for Neuer.
The 2018 World Cup in Russia marked a low point for German football and Manuel Neuer. The reigning champions crashed out in the group stages in rather spectacular fashion with Neuer, one of the pioneering faces of the team over the past decade, facing a potential axing from the international squad.
Whilst chasing a game against South Korea, the goalkeeper ventured out of his box and into the opponent’s half as Joachim Lowe’s side threw the kitchen sink in the dying moments.
Neuer charged up the field to try and help the attack – leaving his goal wide open.
As luck would have it, or not have it in this case, the ball was given to the goalkeeper just inside the South Korean’s half but he lost possession after a heavy touch.
The 2018 World Cup in Russia marked a low point for German football and Manuel Neuer
The ball was then punted down field and Hueng-min Son scored to make it 2-0.
The shock exit from the tournament led to a huge overhaul in the Germany camp, with many senior faces such as Jerome Boateng, Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels being shunned from the squad with Lowe wanting a ‘new Germany’.
Neuer survived by the skin of his teeth but remained under immense pressure from Barcelona’s Marc Andre ter Stegen for the No 1 spot.
The Bayern keeper had never been error prone and never looked uncomfortable in his own skin before, but suddenly his unofficial title of the world’s best goalkeeper was no more.
Following the World Cup exit, Neuer found his No 1 spot under threat by Marc Andre ter Stegen
Neuer was an innovator of the goalkeeper position and was more than a ‘sweeper keeper’
A seemingly impenetrable force appeared broken and out of his prime.
For seasons before, he was widely perceived as the greatest goalkeeper in the world as he battled it out with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for awards and accolades.
Neuer was an innovator of the goalkeeper position and changed the way people thought the position should be played. He can be categorised as a ‘sweeper keeper’, but he offered much more than that to Bayern.
He was an eleventh out field player. As German football began to dominate Europe in the early 2010s, other clubs began to mirror their playing out from the back style which started with Neuer in goal.
He was never afraid to have the ball at his feet and would come 30 yards from his goal line if he had to to either defend or start an attack. He was fearless, and he was feared.
After re-finding his form, Manuel Neuer can stand proudly as the world’s greatest, once again
Overseas, goalkeepers such as David de Gea and Kepa Arrizabalaga – who were gunning for the ‘world’s best’ title during The German’s demise – have taken steps backwards in the last season.
Neuer continued to have faith put in him by both his club and country, and he began to repay that faith with some wonderful saves and growing in confidence once again.
For now, as the captain of the European champions, the German champions and still one of the greatest shot stoppers and innovators of the modern game, Manuel Neuer can stand proudly as the world’s greatest, once again.
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