News : DFB captain Manuel Neuer: Goalkeeping life begins at the age of 35
On June 2, 2009, Joachim Löw had a kind of inspiration. The national team was in Dubai that day on their trip to Asia and played an international match against the United Arab Emirates. Löw tested a young goalkeeper, and when he observed how the young man acted among the national team, “from the very first moment I had the feeling that he would be a great goalkeeper and have an incredible career.”
We are, of course, talking about Manuel Neuer, who is 97 international matches later and exactly eleven years later before a milestone in the career that Löw had foreseen: the DFB will make two international matches in the next few days in order to get into the necessary rhythm before the EM. And since the time for testing and experiments is tight, one can assume that Neuer will play his 99th international match against Denmark on Wednesday and his 100th international match against Latvia on the following Sunday.
Even the national coach’s critics have to admit that: Joachim Löw was right with his feeling from 2009.
Once again undisputed
Manuel Neuer is now 35 years old, world champion, Champions League winner and many times German champion with Bayern, captain in the club and in the national team. Neuer is, it must be said once again, completely undisputed when it comes to his number one position. And that would also be the case if his deputy Marc-André ter Stegen had not canceled the tournament with injuries. “It gets better and better from year to year,” said Löw on Saturday at the DFB training camp in Seefeld.
There is no guarantee for any player for the entire tournament, said the national coach on Saturday, he should have added: The exception applies to the goalkeeper. Neuer always plays because he always wants to play. Even if there are test matches against Denmark and Latvia, in which he could generously let the goalkeepers behind him, Bernd Leno and Kevin Trapp, go first. These are “important games, we don’t see them as a training session,” says Neuer. By “we” he means: Manuel Neuer.
When Neuer is sitting there in front of the press, happily answering journalists’ questions a little hesitantly, he still looks a bit like the nice boy from Gelsenkirchen. But nobody can be fooled by that anymore: Manuel Neuer’s ambition is hard to beat.
100 internationals, “it’s not easy for a goalkeeper to reach such a number,” says Neuer himself. After all, “an outfield player is credited with an international match even if he is only substituted for a minute, while goalkeepers usually do standing on the pitch for the entire playing time «. That’s true, but only half the story if you look at the list of record national players from other countries. These are often the goalkeepers like England’s Peter Shilton or Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon. Buffon is 43 and he’s still playing. After all, keepers are still capable of top performance even at an advanced age for footballers.
It will continue like this with Flick
That is how Neuer sees it too, and he leaves no doubt that his career is far from over: »I’ve always had fun and enjoyment in my job, and when the body says it can go on, then it works too further”. Even if he has played almost 100 international matches “all under Joachim Löw”, that doesn’t mean that with the end of the Löw era, the Neuer era is also coming to an end: “I don’t make my career dependent on who is the coach. «
Especially since Löw’s successor was known to be the club coach Neuers, “and everyone knows that he has a particularly good relationship with Hansi Flick.” The next World Cup is already waiting for next year, Neuer has something to make up for, and a European Championship will be played in his own country in 2024. Neuer will then be 38 years old. He won’t consider this old.
At Löw he always had a stone in the board, the national coach pulled out the whole portfolio of the qualities of his goalkeeper on Saturday: “His immense charisma, his presence, his vigilance” were praised as well as that he was “always open, honest and communicative «. Löw even went so far as to say: “He played a great tournament even in 2018.”
2018, the World Cup debacle in Russia – Neuer played after a long break from injury, he played solidly, but he was not outstanding. As captain, in the dispute over Mesut Özil, he did not play the role of the one who would have stood up for his teammate. Many saw this critically and at the time wanted more of the communication skills advertised by Löw.
With his 100th international match, Neuer would catch up with Thomas Müller and Ulf Kirsten, with GDR legend Jürgen Croy there is only one goalkeeper in front of him, and Neuer will also overtake him in the European Championship tournament. He will probably no longer reach Lothar Matthäus with his 150 DFB appearances, but who knows? When asked whether Germany could win the title at the European Championship, the goalkeeper said: “You have to formulate goals, then you can achieve them.”
That could be a program above Manuel Neuer’s career.