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Bayern's captain explains his goalkeeping game

Manuel Neuer: 'I have a catalogue in my head'

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For Manuel Neuer, a goalkeeper’s tasks go well beyond the penalty area. He has rewritten the job description for his position. In “51” he tells us how much work interpreting the game in this way demands.

Interview with Manuel Neuer

Manu, the Club World Cup is coming up in February. You’ll meet teams you would otherwise only face in friendly matches. You always prepare meticulously for every opponent. Have you been looking for material about Al-Duhail or Al-Ahly since the 19 January draw?
"In today's connected world, this isn’t so difficult. We generally have our analysts who compile the material, and my goalkeeping coach Toni Tapalovic has collected data and facts from the past few months. I know exactly which players to expect. The only difference is that it’s understandable that in a case like the Club World Cup you won’t know every player inside out, so you have to look at things like appearance or shirt number to identify who’s running at you."

The fans have little idea how much detailed work lies behind your performance. How is your preparation going, and when and how does the analysis begin?
"The rough schedule is that the FC Bayern analysis department pre-filters everything and Toni cuts together the aspects that are important to me. There’s team tactical analysis from Hansi Flick, discussing fundamental points about the opponents. For me, it’s more specific to goalkeeping. For a Saturday game, we start our preparation on Thursday. Among other things, there’s a session on the dead-ball situations and individual analysis about how a player behaves in attack and defence. On the day of the match itself, Toni and I go through every player in the opponent's final training session in great detail. If the line-up should change again shortly before kick-off, we react to it by sitting down again briefly. This routine has become second nature over the years."

Neuer and goalkeeping coach Toni Tapalovi (2nd l.) have become a well-oiled machine.

What do you know about your opponents and their attacking players when you go into the game?
"The approach in one-on-ones, corner variations, free-kick tricks, wing behaviour, penalty takers, etc. I know everything - and their ability from open play. I have a real catalogue in my head. Certain things have to be judged depending on the situation, not everyone plays every move according to their particular set of building blocks. And when a player comes on, I have another brief exchange with Toni, if necessary; it even works non-verbally. Most people don't even notice. Our match briefing just before kick-off is enough for me. I have the players warming up in front of my eyes and everything saved in my head. It's very complex. But sometimes all the preparation doesn't help. You can't predict everything. That's an occupational hazard for the goalkeeper (smiles)."

Serge Gnabry and Jérôme Boateng push themselves to the highest possible level with biohacking, Robert Lewandowski even had his sleep studied - are you making similar efforts?
"No, but for many years I’ve paid more attention to a healthy diet than I used to. I have a similar diet to Leon Goretzka, for example, gluten-free among other things - I'm not even allowed to eat red meat."

Neuer was named the IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper for a fifth time in 2020, matching the record of Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon.

You once said a goalkeeper should also create situations - is that the high art of today's goalkeeping game or is it a necessary duty?
"The first thing that matters is the coach and the team, but you now see more and more teams directing the game from the back, and for this philosophy you need a goalkeeper who can initiate a good structure. This is important to me personally. I think I can give my team something, as well as saving shots. It's always said the striker is the first defender - I think the goalkeeper should be the first attacker these days."

After your playing career, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has said people like you and Thomas Müller should continue to play a role at FC Bayern - is that conceivable for you?
"Uli Hoeneß said that too, after I’d been with FC Bayern for just two years. I’m very happy when people like Hoeneß and Rummenigge say they’d trust me with a role like that. First, I want to be active on the pitch a while longer. I still have goals and I’m extremely motivated. After that we can discuss what comes next."

You can read the full interview in members' magazine '51'.

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