What makes Manuel Neuer the most complete goalkeeper in the world
Manuel Neuer has revolutionised the goalkeeping game. Andreas Köpke and Sven Ulreich are two people from the footballing world who can confirm that from close quarters. "He could at least play outfield in the third division," long-time Germany goalkeeping coach Köpke once said of the 36-year-old. Current teammate Ulreich believes Neuer has the physique and footballing ability to do so. But what is it about the five-time world's best goalkeeper, who has extended his contract at FC Bayern till 2024, that makes him so brilliant? *fcbayern.com*takes a look...
"He's so easy on the ball," said Eintracht Frankfurt defender Marco Russ on 9 November 2014. But what had happened to make him say that? It was the day Neuer pulled out his brilliant flick to turn a Rafinha back pass to Xabi Alonso. A scene emblematic of the goalkeeper's technical ability. He even likes scoring from corners, outside the box and with flicks in training.
A quality that's sometimes forgotten because we've become so accustomed to it over Neuer's extraordinary career is how he plays the role of sweeper-keeper. Potentially dangerous attacks are quickly nullified because Neuer is often some way off his line and possesses superb anticipation to run out and nip the threat in the bud. One-on-one against an opponent? No problem for Neuer. That's borne out in the numbers. Neuer had 41 example of his sweeping in 2021, which is defined in the stats as a clearance by a goalkeeper outside the penalty area. That was the most of any goalkeeper in Europe's top five leagues – and done so with a flawless 100% success rate. And Neuer would then frequently commence the next attack with an inch-perfect pass or throw over the halfway line.
3. High flyer
When things do get dicey, the 36-year-old can always take flight when running out to clear the danger. One moment that's stuck with many Bayern fans was his header in the 2013 UEFA Super Cup against Chelsea when the 1.93m goalkeeper pulled out a header deep in the opposition half to beat the onrushing Oscar.
4. Penalty expert
Neuer's header wasn't the end of his highlights that day against Chelsea. After Javi Martinez's 120th-minute equaliser took the Super Cup to penalties, Neuer saved a spot-kick from Romelu Lukaku to secure the title for Bayern. The goalkeeper had even shown the year before that he can take a penalty when he converted against Petr Cech in the Champions League final in Munich against the English club. Or there was the 2012 Champions League semi-final when he denied Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka. Or the 2012 DFB Cup final against Borussia Mönchengladbach when he saved from Havard Nordtveit. #NeuerTheWall is your man in a shootout.
5. Big-game player
What distinguishes a world-class player from a very good one? The answer could be that they make an impact in supposed big games, like Champions League or World Cup finals. And Neuer has done that. A two-time Champions League winner, 10 Bundesliga titles (a record for a goalkeeper) and five DFB Cups is just the tip of his Bayern trophy collection, always showing his brilliance. The 2020 Champions League final against Paris Saint-Germain. Or his superb stop against Ronaldo in the 2017 quarter-finals that prompted Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane to say: "They have a goalkeeper who saves a lot. A lot." Or the 2013 Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund. The Goatkeeper delivers when needed.
6. World champion
All among these amazing club performances, you also can't forget his memorable displays with the national team. The 2014 World Cup winner etched his name in history at the tournament in Brazil, starting with his performance in the round of 16 against Algeria when he sprinted out and slid in like an outfield player. That had the world stand up and take notice before his brilliant stop against Karim Benzema in the quarter-final against France. And it was all crowned in the final against Argentina when he kept a clean sheet against Lionel Messi & Co. to secure the 1-0 win and the title. We knew back then, and now in 2022, and still will do in 2024, that the goalkeeping game has changed since Neuer came onto the scene.