Maier: Manuel is an old fox
When you think of FC Bayern legends, there's no ignoring Sepp Maier. The 'cat from Anzing' appeared 473 times in the Bundesliga for FCB – more than any other player. Taking all competitions into account, only Oliver Kahn (632) made more appearances for the record German champions than Maier (629). He's also Germany's most-capped goalkeeper (95). This week, the 74 year-old returned to the place where he spent his whole career to talk in his typically forthright manner about Manuel Neuer, the upcoming World Cup and what he expects from Bayern next season.
Interview with Sepp Maier
Nice to see you back at Säbener Straße. What's it like for you to come to here, where you spent your whole career?
Sepp Maier: "It's the same as it always is but everything's changed. When I started, we had nothing at all. There was a little house and a wooden cabin. That was 60 years ago. A lot has changed."
It's quiet at Säbener Straße at the moment, with the World Cup just around the corner. Are you looking forward to it? How will you be following the tournament?
Maier: "I'll certainly be watching the games, although if I have a golf tournament, I'll play golf and watch the game later. These days you don't miss anything, and for the first three Germany games I'll be working as a commentator on a cruise ship anyway."
There's been a lot of talk about Manuel Neuer in the last few months. As a former goalkeeper and goalkeeping coach, what do you make of his selection?
Maier: "There's no debate there: if he's fit, he plays! He's not lost it, even though he's been out for seven or eight months. I've not forgotten how to ride a bike either."
His lack of match practice has often been criticised.
Maier: "Of course you need that, but you also get that in training. You get the same situations that you get in a game and in fact you get them more frequently. Yes, a game is a bit different, but Manuel is an old fox. He doesn't need that long. The important thing is that he's fit and not in pain anymore. Löw was absolutely right to make the decision."
Germany go into the tournament as holders, which hasn't been good for them in the past. Why is that? You experienced that in 1978.
Maier: "Only two teams have ever defended the title and that was a long time ago (Italy in 1934 and 1938 and Brazil in 1958 and 1962). I think we have a good chance of becoming the third team to do it, though, despite losing to Austria. I see France and Spain, and maybe even Belgium, as favourites. I don't think the South American sides will have much of a say this time."
Defending the title will also depend on Manuel Neuer. Toni Tapalovic has worked with him for a long time and played a big role in his career. How do you regard his work?
Maier: "A computer expert. He works very meticulously and incorporates everything. He analyses every training session afterwards. Practically and technically he's perfect. He knows a lot about his subject."
In Christian Früchtl and Ron-Thorben Hoffmann FCB have two talented young goalkeepers in their ranks. What's important for them now?
Maier: "They must learn. I can say that from my own experience having worked with a lot of young goalkeepers. You can learn a lot from watching world-class keepers like Manuel Neuer. They need to train. I was already playing for the first team at the age of 18 but those days are gone. They'll get a lot from training."
What do you expect from Bayern next season?
Maier: "A seventh league title in succession. I also hope we can reach the Champions League final again. I don't want to talk about winning it. We've been close so often lately and it's not happened. This year was very hard to swallow. Bayern were clearly the better team against Madrid but you need a bit of luck if you want to achieve things."
A new coach is joining in Niko Kovac.
Maier: "I'm very excited by Niko, but he's got the best conditions here. He's a great person and he'll do well."
Many people say that other than the DFB Cup success, he's not won anything.
Maier: "He proved his qualities as coach of the Croatian national team when they qualified for the 2014 World Cup. There were lots of players in that squad who aren't easy to manage. In terms of his successes, I don't think it matters much. And he can now point to the cup win, even though it wasn't right that he did it against Bayern. I would've sacked him straight away (laughs)."