‘You’d never know he’s been away’
He wasn't prepared for this extension to his working day. Manuel Neuer had to go onto the pitch and back to the dressing rooms three times as the stormy weather in Klagenfurt prevented a decent warm-up and the kick-off. So it finally took 103 minutes longer than expected for the FC Bayern captain to make his long-awaited return to the national side.
"It was a very satisfactory comeback for Manuel after such a long time," said Germany coach Joachim Löw after the 2-1 defeat in Austria where Neuer's return to international duty after 599 days was one of the few positives on the night. The five-time World Goalkeeper of the Year kept his team from going further behind and Neuer made his presence felt as usual. "He reacted very well in certain situations. You'd never know he's been away," said Löw. Neuer made his last competitive appearance on 16 September 2017 in a 4-0 win for FC Bayern against FSV Mainz 05.
"No problems" with his foot
There is also a huge amount of confidence in Neuer amongst his team-mates. "I've been able to watch Manu for the past ten days. In my opinion I think he's 100 per cent fit," said Sami Khedira. "We've seen he's fully committed in training and he's not eased off. He has a massive presence," added the Juventus pro. The former Bayern striker Mario Gomez said: "It's fascinating how he makes his comeback after nine months with that level of fitness and with that body language. I'm really happy for him because I know how much he's worked on his comeback," added Gomez. "He's our most important player."
Neuer didn't want to talk about it after the game. The most urgent question was answered by the Germany coach. "Manuel didn't have any sort of problem with his foot after the game," said Löw. As it stands, Germany fans can look forward to seeing a fully fit Manuel Neuer at the World Cup finals in Russia.