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Could Manuel Neuer Still Leave Bayern Munich?

| June 21, 2020 2:42 am PDT
Manuel Neuer Bayern Munich

It was one of the biggest transfer rumors of the January window. Would Manuel Neuer leave Bayern Munich after nine years of trophy-laden success? The Germany international was unhappy with the way discussions had gone concerning an extension to his contract, and Chelsea was just one of the clubs waiting for the chance to offer the 34-year-old a way out.

The unscheduled break that postponed most soccer around the world meant that the decision of whether Neuer should stay or go was not headline news for a while. But talks were ongoing, and there still seemed to be some distance between what Neuer felt he was worth and what Bayern was offering.

But on May 21, it was announced that the two sides had come together, and Neuer had signed a new contract that will keep him at the Bavarian club until 2023. It seems as though any speculation surrounding Neuer’s departure will now die down. But should Bayern Munich replace Manuel Neuer?

Neuer’s Career

Many regard Manuel Neuer as one of the best goalkeepers in the world, and Bayern Munich performed a now-familiar maneuver back in 2011 when it swooped in to sign the player after he had turned down the chance to extend his contract with Schalke.

Schalke was Neuer’s hometown club, and he had been playing there since he was a child. But after rising through the ranks and helping the first team enjoy one of its most successful periods ever, he decided that he would move to the biggest club in Germany. By then, he had already been made captain of Schalke, and many fans were unhappy with his decision to leave for one of the club’s main rivals.

Neuer had established himself as Germany’s number one a few years earlier and was now going to join the country’s most successful club side. Unsurprisingly, there have been more medals and trophies at Bayern, and he is now looking to win his eighth successive Bundesliga title as captain. But that didn’t stop the club looking to the future and almost causing Neuer to be tempted to move away.

Why Neuer Might Have Left Bayern

With Bayern Munich dominating German soccer, Manuel Neuer has continued a very successful career domestically as well as on the international stage. But as with any major club, the Bavarians had already put a plan in place for a time when Neuer would not be the automatic number-one pick.

It was announced in January that Alexander Nubel would be leaving Schalke on a free transfer at the end of the season to join Bayern. The 23-year-old keeper would be making the exact same move that Neuer had made nine years earlier. This obviously angered the Schalke fans, but it also made Neuer rethink his commitment to the club. It was believed that part of Nubel’s deal was that he would be assured a certain number of appearances each season while he got ready to take over from Neuer as the first-choice keeper. Not only was that not acceptable to Neuer, but he was also disappointed with the way that these kinds of details had been leaked in the media.

Neuer’s contract negotiations had already broken down over wage demands and about how long a deal he wanted. The keeper was unhappy with how he was being treated as an established leader of the team and now had to contend with a young newcomer looking to oust him from his position. Neuer’s eventual decision to sign a new contract looks to have put those worries to bed, but they do raise more questions about how Nubel will be used next season now.

Should Bayern Still Look to Offload Neuer?

It seems unlikely that Manuel Neuer will be going anyway soon, but just because he has signed a four-year contract doesn’t mean that he will be staying for the full duration. Bayern might now be thinking of gradually bringing Nubel into the first team and still being able to make some money from a transfer in the next two years. It may even be in Bayern’s best interests to do that.

Neuer missed almost the entire 2017/18 season through injury and has been absent for other periods of time since then. Although he is currently enjoying an uninterrupted spell between the sticks at the Allianz Arena, there will be a worry that he is still susceptible to injury. If that happens at the start of next season, then Alexander Nubel will be ready to step up and might take some shifting once Neuer is fit again.

There is also the question of Neuer’s ability. That may sound strange to anyone that has seen him perform incredible saves and lift trophy after trophy over the past few years. But there is another point of view that sees him as something of a liability for the Bayern team.

Neuer virtually invented the “sweeper-keeper” role and is still the most visible proponent of that type of player. Thanks to Bayern’s style of play and domination of German soccer, Neuer is able to spend much of his time outside of the penalty area and performs more like a sweeper than a keeper. With such world-class players around him, Neuer has been able to be the first point of attack rather than the last line of defense.

But there have been more and more mistakes over the last few seasons for both club and country. Playing as a sweeper keeper is a very risky game, and Neuer has been caught out on more than one occasion. The highest-profile gaffe was for the national side at the World Cup in Russia in 2018. It was a poor performance all around for the German side, but Neuer’s mistake in the game against South Korea cost his team dearly. For the first time since 1938, Germany exited the tournament after the first round of games.

There were further costly mistakes in the Bundesliga in the few games he had played before succumbing to injury, and there have been more since. It is true that 2018 was probably Manuel Neuer’s worst year in his career, but opposing teams might now see his playing style as a weakness that can be exploited.

Options for Bayern and Neuer

Now that the Bundesliga has resumed play and Neuer has signed a new contract, it does seem as if nothing much will change very soon. Any new injury might cause Bayern to rethink its position, but for now, it looks like being business as usual. But it is going to be interesting to see how Neuer and Nubel work together next season once the young keeper is also at the club.

Although there is that supposed clause in Nubel’s deal that assures him appearances, Bayern has never been too bothered about doing exactly what they want as long as it brings further success. If Nubel doesn’t get the chance he believes he deserves, or even the one he thought he signed up for, then that could cause some friction. It is more likely that Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge will side with Neuer, but there was obviously a hardening of the relationship while the contract discussions rumbled on.

Neuer, even at the age of 34, will still have a number of admirers at some of the top clubs around the world. So any change in the way he is dealt with by the club will not go unnoticed. There would be La Liga and English Premier League clubs queuing up to sign Neuer if he decided it was time to move on.

Final Words

It was always thought that Manuel Neuer would see out the rest of his career at Bayern. But the way the relationship deteriorated while those contract extension talks were going on might have a lasting effect. Neuer seemed personally aggrieved that the club he had given everything to for almost ten years seemed willing to look to the next player if it thought it might be getting a bad deal. The way that Neuer believed Bayern dealt with their differences publically obviously rankled.

But Manuel Neuer is loved by Bayern fans and is a much-respected and admired member of the squad and is looked up to by his teammates. If Bayern continues to win trophies in Germany, then there is a good chance that he may well spend the next four years — and more — at the club. But the relationship is not as tight as it once was, so if results go the wrong way or Neuer picks up another injury, we might have to get used to seeing a new number one at the club.

For more on all things soccer, head to the soccer section of our blog.

Dan Roberts

Dan Roberts is an experienced freelance writer specialising in sports and sports betting. He is particularly knowledgeable about world soccer, but also writes about football, basketball and cricket.

As a fan of Nottingham Forest, New York Knicks, Minnesota Vikings and New York Mets, Dan has not had much to celebrate recently.

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