Long Reads

Manuel Neuer – Redefining a Modern Goalkeeper

Bayern Munich have had their fair share of extraordinary goalkeepers like Oliver Kahn and Sepp Maier. It is always a difficult task for anyone to achieve or even go beyond the achievements of such players. Yet, one can safely say that this is something that Manuel Neuer has managed with ease. Signed from Schalke in 2006, Manuel Neuer had shown a lot of promise but few would have expected him to become a legend at the club, while also going on to redefine the meaning of a modern goalkeeper.

Distinguished list of honours

Manuel Neuer has been able to win almost every honour with Bayern Munich and Germany. He had just started to display his qualities with Schalke when he was snatched up by Bayern. In six seasons with Schalke in the Bundesliga, Neuer made just over 150 appearances in the league. Since joining Bayern Munich in 2011-12, Neuer has gone on to make close to 300 appearances for Bayern. In the process, he has built an enormous trophy cabinet which could be the envy of any player in the world. His days at Schalke were quite promising and he ended up winning two major honours with the club before the switch to Bayern.

Since then, however, Neuer has landed himself a remarkable nine Bundesliga titles, two Champions League, five DFB Pokal, and plenty of other trophies with Bayern Munich. He also happens to be a World Cup winner with the German national team. The individual honours tend to evade goalkeepers on most occasions with only a handful of names like Gianluigi Buffon and Iker Casillas being able to stay clear of the trap. Manuel Neuer also comes into this category after having been crowned as the Germany Footballer of the Year on two occasions while also winning a whole host of individual honours like the German national Player of the Year title.

manuel neuer

Redefining the goalkeeper

There are a number of players who have picked up the honours won by Neuer, but few have been able to dominate the headlines in a league and redefine positions. Yet, this is what Neuer has been able to achieve by taking on the inputs from high-profile managers – like Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti, who have coached him. There is no doubt that Neuer is a great goalkeeper when it comes to stopping shots, but the quality that keeps him apart from a long list of average goalkeepers would be the commanding control over the ball.

Neuer is almost capable of playing as the 11th outfield player on the pitch. This gives his team’s a remarkable superiority over the opposition in terms of controlling the ball. It is no wonder that the arrival of Neuer has begun a run of trophies and successes for the team, who were struggling to find a replacement for Kahn.

Across the top five leagues in Europe, Manuel Neuer has been able to set new standards when it comes to passing accuracy for goalkeepers. He has been able to achieve a remarkable 76.6% passing, which is better than the likes of Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, Gianluigi Buffon, Gianluigi Donnarumma, and more. Neuer would certainly have to thank Guardiola for helping him develop into this pass master and the figures clearly show this status. Before the arrival of Guardiola, Neuer used to average around 75% passing accuracy which increased to a remarkable 88% in Guardiola’s first season at Bayern. His impact at the German club was so profound that he was only behind Lionel Messi in the Ballon d’Or awards for that season.

The sweeper position has certainly gone out of the game, but it has been replaced by a player like Neuer. Undoubtedly, he has been a huge influence on some of the young goalkeepers like Ter Stegen.

Impact on the global stage

Apart from being able to provide a massive impact with Bayern Munich, Manuel Neuer has also played an influential role in the German national team. Even at the World Cup in 2014, the ex-Schalke man was able to create a new record for the highest number of sweepings by a goalkeeper since the 1960s. Even though the German national team were able to field a number of iconic players like Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller at World Cup 2014, the impact made by Neuer was exceptional.

The success at World Cup 2014 played a key role in elevating Manuel Neuer’s status when it comes to the top goalkeepers in the world. At the same time, his performances in this competition made him as one of the top players in the game with only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo being considered in a superior status back then. This was some praise for a goalkeeper who still had several years of football left in him. At a time when Messi and Ronaldo were in a league of their own, Neuer was able to finish in the third spot in the race for winning the Ballon d’Or. If not for the duo, Neuer might have become only the second goalkeeper to win the title up after Lev Yashin in 1963.

One of the biggest successes of Neuer has been his ability to transform the goalkeeper position into one of the real significance even in the offensive build-up. Gone are the days when goalkeepers were only expected to save shots. Now, they are expected to be an active contributor in the build-up play. At just 35 years of age, Neuer was able to achieve almost every major honour in the game. He has been able to do this whilst still being the number one at Bayern Munich. This is not an easy job with Bayern expecting only the best from the players at all times. Neuer may not be a one-club man, but there is little reason to expect that he would not be inducted into the legendary status at Bayern once he retires.

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