Tuesday June 08, 2021
On 2 June 2009 Germany took on the United Arab Emirates at the Al-Maktoum Stadium in Dubai. Standing between the posts was one of German football’s brightest young talents: Manuel Neuer. As he collects his 100th international cap almost precisely 12 years later, the world-class goalkeeper is the captain of his country. The recipient of The Best FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper 2020 award, Neuer was the winner of the adidas Golden Glove at the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ and, perhaps most importantly of all, a world champion that year.
Germany coach Joachim Low vividly recalls Neuer’s debut 12 years ago: "From the first moment he was with us, I had the feeling he would go on to be one of the world’s great goalkeepers."
In addition to the many successes he has celebrated with Germany, the footballing world also has him to thank for a very distinctive playing style. Manuel Neuer embodies the sweeper-keeper like no other player – you could even say that he has defined the role for the modern era.
Any goalkeeping coach looking to give their young charges an insight into this forward-thinking style of play could use Neuer’s performance in Germany’s Round of 16 match against Algeria at Brazil 2014 as an instructional film. The supremely focused shotstopper took risks throughout the encounter, intercepting passes and venturing all the way to the halfway line to clear the ball. Germany ultimately secured a 2-1 victory after extra-time to reach the quarter-finals – and what happened after that is etched in both football’s history books and the hearts of all of the country’s fans.
Yet Manuel Neuer’s success is not only down to his goalkeeping qualities – he is also an exceptional leader on the pitch. He has been Germany captain since 2016 and also wears the armband for reigning FIFA Club World Cup champions Bayern Munich.
For Neuer, communication is the key in this role: “If you don’t talk enough or interact enough with your team-mates, the coaching staff and officials, then you don’t have the character required to be a leader,” he explained while giving a talk on leadership to the German Football Association (DFB) Academy. He directs his team from the back and is convinced that his team-mates also pick up on his body language.
Germany’s reserve goalkeepers, Bernd Leno and Kevin Trapp, have no complaints about playing second fiddle to this generational talent. Neuer "feels 25", according to Leno, who says that there is "something new to learn [from him] every day" and that the No.1 has "lightning-fast instincts."
Arsenal goalkeeper Leno does not believe there is a better goalkeeper in the Premier League, with even Brazilian backstops Ederson at Manchester City or Alisson at Liverpool unable to compete. According to Leno, Neuer is "an even more complete player".
Eintracht Frankfurt shotstopper Trapp shares a similar view. The 30-year-old is impressed with Neuer’s "positive presence; you never get the feeling that he lacks confidence in himself". It seems as if the Bayern Munich goalkeeper is in a league of his own.
Today Neuer makes his 100th appearance for Germany in their UEFA EURO 2020 warm-up match against Latvia and was presented with the DFB’s medal of honour – a prestigious accolade, particularly for a goalkeeper. To mark this special milestone, he wore gloves with the number 100, his major honours and the years of his international career so far (2009 to 2021) on the strap.
Despite reaching this major landmark, the 35-year-old is not yet contemplating hanging up his gloves. "I’m having so much fun with the lads and have no intention of ending my international career," Neuer explained at a DFB press conference.
And with his former club coach Hansi Flick set to take over from Germany boss Joachim Low after this summer’s EUROs, the future certainly looks bright for Neuer, providing his current form continues. Next stop: Qatar 2022™.