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'A pillar for our team'

Giant Neuer secures cup victory

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Coaches are usually reluctant to reveal parts of their line-up one day before a match, but Niko Kovac made an exception ahead of the cup final against Leipzig. "I can tell you: Manuel will play tomorrow because he's our captain, because he has turned in good displays this season and because he's a crucial pillar for our team," the 47-year-old declared at Friday's press conference.

FC Bayern's number one had struggled with a torn muscle for a long time and had been unable to play since mid-April, but his coach had no doubts. "He placed his trust in me. He told me I've played so many finals that I'll absolutely stand my ground, even after such a long break," Neuer revealed after paying back the trust with strong saves in the 3-0 victory.

Praise from everybody

Neuer had to demonstrate all his skill when Yussuf Poulsen headed from close range, the Germany netminder deflecting the ball onto the crossbar with an incredible reflex save. Neuer laid down a second marker shortly after the restart. The onrushing Emil Forsberg had only Neuer to beat, but the 33-year-old made another impressive save, retaining Bayern's lead. "That's Manuel Neuer," said Kovac in praising the keeper: "You saw today why Manu is the best goalkeeper in Germany and why he plays for FC Bayern."

"We had Manuel Neuer at the back, a giant who deservedly features between the posts for the national team," said chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Neuer was satisfied with his comeback after the final whistle and brimming with joy after returning just in time for the final. But the team's success was the main thing for him: "For me, for us all, it's much more important to have finished the season as double winners," said Neuer. "You always have to deliver at FC Bayern, and we did just that. We can be really proud of our performance."

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