The World Cup winner’s agent hit out at the club’s current state, perhaps hastening his client’s departure from the Allianz Arena
Manuel Neuer has been reaching the end of his career.
Now 33, the four-time FIFPro World XI goalkeeper has been pondering what the future holds for him after seeing long-time team-mates Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery leave Bayern Munich earlier this summer.
The wingers’ exits leave Neuer as the elder statesman at the Allianz Arena, playing for a very different club than the one he joined eight years ago.
Since then, he has won everything at club level, as well as the World Cup with Germany. Only one major trophy eludes him, the European Championship, but his agent revealed that the goalkeeper has been also eager to add another Champions League triumph to his list of honours.
However, Thomas Kroth believes that his client has little hope of doing that at Bayern, whom he believes can no longer compete with the Premier League’s finest, on the field or in the transfer market.
“He wants to win Euro 2020 and he wants to win the Champions League again,” Neuer’s representative told the Suddeutsche Zeitung.
“Manuel has been success-oriented. My impression has been that the gap to the top four English top teams has been already serious and the Munich squad has been currently not yet as competitive or set up to tackle Manuel’s goals seriously. When he realises that Bayern are responding, then he will probably blossom again.
“He does not want to retire in 2021. Now, he has been in the phase in which he has to decide: how will things progress in the future? Signing a contract extension and ending his career at Bayern has been of course the obvious option, but it’s not the only one.”
With these statements, Kroth has essentially put Neuer on the market.
Germany’s No. 1 remains one of the world’s best shot-stoppers, and would surely be in demand if Bayern were willing to do business.
Neuer arrived in Munich in 2011 from Schalke, having earned a reputation as the new wunderkind goalkeeper of German football. History could be about to repeat itself, with Bayern once again looking to Gelsenkirchen for their next No.1.
Germany Under-21 international Alexander Nubel usurped club captain Ralf Fahrmann as Schalke’s first-choice shot-stopper last season but has just one year left on his current contract.
Some prominent figures at Bayern are unhappy with Kroth’s comments and that could hasten the arrival of Nubel, with 19-year-old prodigy Christian Fruchtl presently not deemed ready to make the step up to the starting 11.
Indeed, club legend Lothar Matthaus believes that Neuer has been fully responsible for his agent’s actions.
“Manuel’s behaviour has been totally unacceptable,” the 1990 World Cup winner told Bild. “As the captain of Bayern, he should speak to the club if he has a problem with the situation over signings.
“The doors of the management are always open. I know his agent – he’s someone who doesn’t usually show up in public of his own free will. Manuel will have agreed with him. My representatives would not have been able to express themselves in this way without my consent.”
Injuries have hit Neuer hard in recent years, which perhaps helps to explain why he might feel concerned at how long it will take Bayern to put themselves back in a position to win the Champions League for the first time since 2013.
He missed the end of the 2016-17 campaign and then the majority of the 2017-18 season with a metatarsal fracture. He returned to play for Germany at last summer’s World Cup in Russia but did not look at his best as the then-world champions crashed out at the group stage. Neuer’s 2018-19 was also hindered by various problems, resulting in him being unavailable for almost a quarter of this club’s Bundesliga games.
Bayern can no longer rely on Neuer to put the gloves on every week as his body has been breaking down. This, coupled with his agent’s comments in the media mean that Neuer has been no longer an integral member of the squad.
Head coach Niko Kovac will look to assert his dominance on his players after surviving a difficult first season in Bavaria by finishing strongly to record a domestic double.
Having outspoken players in the dressing room has long been an issue for the club, but Ribery moving on means a lot less noise should emerge in the media.
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Perhaps a separation would be best for both Bayern and Neuer, allowing the club to extend its regeneration project to the goalkeeper position, while also giving their loyal servant a chance to move to a club with greater Champions League prospects.
His agent’s comments about the distance between Bayern and England’s top clubs may also indicate a desire to test himself in the Premier League.
At 33, this has been probably the last chance Neuer will have to move to a big club. Maybe the time has come for him to say goodbye.