Toni Tapalovic: The genius behind Manuel Neuer
It was an unusual step for Bayern to take in 2012 when they appointed Toni Tapalovic as new goalkeeping coach. The man from Gelsenkirchen was only 32 years old and had no experience at the highest level. "Before Bayern I worked as a junior coach at Schalke." He got to know Manuel Neuer and the two worked together becoming good friends.
"I don't know whether there's ever been such a relationship with a goalkeepeing coach in the Bundesliga. A glance is often enough and we both know what we mean. This helps in certain game situations, when you want to give advice from the sidelines. And that's exactly how it should be," described Tapalovic the relationship with his protégé, who sparked his coaching career. When Neuer signed for FC Bayern, the national team keeper suggested his companion as new goalkeeping coach.
First meeting with Heynckes
Tapalovic just had to convince new head coach Jupp Heynckes. "I had my goalkeeping philosophy and described it to him. That was some introduction," thought back the 38-year-old. I got a great impression of him, both professionally and personally. I was very interested in his ideas," remembered Heynckes this introduction. The former keeper of Croatian descent packed his bags and he's been in charge of goalkeeping training at FC Bayern since 2012 - convincingly.
"I am the keeper I am today thanks to Toni Tapalovic. He has developed alongside me and I've been able to learn from Toni's playing career as well," said Neuer. "Toni is a great man. He's showed me lots of videos and invested lots of time in me. It's paid off. He's a super coach and it's really fun to work with him. He brings the right mix of relaxed and focused work. He's definitely played a big part in my development," said an enthused Sven Ulreich about his coach.
Personal touch guarantees success
Tapalovic fostered good relationships with all his goalkeepers. "I try to build the same trust I have with Manu with other goalkeepers. It has to be a friendship as well," explained Tapa (as he's generally known), and he revealed some of his philosophy: "An active goalkeeper is important to me, he must be agile. A keeper should be the 11th outfield player."
Manuel Neuer embodies this perfectly and Ulreich fits this formula as well. Aside from these two, Tapalovic is in charge of the two junior keepers Christian Früchtl and Ron-Thorben Hoffmann. This shows the special demands of his job: On the one side the best goalkeeper in the world, who can't really learn much more, on the other two youngsters at the beginning of their careers. Doesn't he need two training groups?
"The content isn't that different," said Tapalovic, "there's no one better than Manuel Neuer. They can model themselves on him. We do the video analysis with the juniors just as we do with Manu. Maybe a bit more. With Manu there are only minor details, with the juniors there's more to address." After establishing himself as a young coach at FC Bayern the development of the next generation is the next exciting challenge for Tapalovic.
There's more on Toni Tapalovic in the current edition of "51." Our goalkeeping coach talks about his unusual journey to Munich and how he almost became a hotel manager. In addition he reveals how his work changes with different coaches, what he learnt from Jupp Heynckes and how he develops his training.