Manuel Neuer has won everything there is to win, be it Bundesliga titles, domestic cups (DFB Pokal), the Champions League, and, of course, the crowning achievement, the World Cup. As he prepared for the Euro 2016 qualifier against Georgia (the country, not the state), which is the one notable piece missing from his trophy case, he sat down with Die Welt for an interview to discuss his on-field exploits, as well as his popularity off the field, especially on the internet.
Here are the translated questions and answers from the interview by Die Welt (my interjections in italics):
Die Welt: Herr Neuer, do you know what students say these days, when they bring home an F?
Manuel Neuer: Enlighten me.
Die Welt: They say "Maybe I didn't actually get an F, but Manuel Neuer."
(Neuer recently did an ad for Coke Zero, in which a couple is sitting on the couch, and the girl says "If you want, I won't be your girlfriend, but Manuel Neuer.", which went viral, with people using the format of "Maybe not _________, but Manuel Neuer". Some are funny, some are stupid, but that's what it's like with internet memes.)
Manuel Neuer: Ha ha. Yes, I heard that there were some funny quips circulating, which were based on my ad. It would be cooler if students came home with an A, and the parents would say "Maybe you didn't get an A, but Manuel Neuer."
Die Welt: Which puts you on the path of internet legends Chuck Norris and Hans Sarpei (apparently, after the German-Ghanese professional footballer retired, people in Germany started making Chuck Norris-type jokes about Sarpei).
Manuel Neuer: Whoa. My contribution to this is minimal. These are things that people find funny, and it takes on a life of its own. Every once in a while, my friends will send me some jokes or pictures.
Die Welt: Do you know what they call it, when you have a fear of of Manuel Neuer jokes?
Manuel Neuer: No.
Die Welt: Paraneuer.
Manuel Neuer: That's not bad.
Die Welt: Is this kind of popularity too much for you?
Manuel Neuer: No, I think it's funny. I enjoy looking outside of football. To film an ad like that, or to dub a character in Monsters University (he was the voice of "Frightening" Frank McCay in the German release of the animated movie), that's exciting. But, I am a goalkeeper, first and foremost, of course.
Die Welt: A cult figure needs to have a flaw, can't be perfect. In that respect, mistakes can help. This past weekend against Gladbach, you let a shot slip through.
Manuel Neuer: Believe me: I would have gladly skipped that. To make a mistake is human, but something like that still bugs me, obviously. On the other hand, I would not be the goalie I am, if things like that didn't happen once in a while.
Die Welt: What do you mean?
Manuel Neuer: It's part of my game to take risks. Because of that, sometimes I'll look stupid on a shot. But I'll save many others because of that, too.
Die Welt: Statisticians have calculated that this is already your fourth slip up against Gladbach. Are they your nemesis?
Manuel Neuer: Nonsense. What is considered a slip up is in the eye of the beholder. There are goals that I allow, where nobody would say anything, but it bugs me, because I know I could have stopped it. On the other hand you have these so-called "slip ups", where I didn't do a lot wrong. To differentiate between them, you have to have a good understanding of goalkeeper play.
Die Welt: That's probably the fate of a keeper, who only gets two or three chances per game to shine.
Manuel Neuer: You're talking about big saves, that will be shown on TV. But my responsibilities are diverse. I organize play from the back, am involved in the play, anticipate situations.
Die Welt: But, most of the time, play is 70 meters away from you.
Manuel Neuer: That's not true. For a keeper, I get involved pretty often. That's how Pep Guardiola's game is set up, lots of ball possession. And I contribute to that.
Die Welt: That's why you're considered the prototype of the new sweeper keeper since the World Cup.
Manuel Neuer: I really didn't change my game in Brazil. I've always played like that. But, at a World Cup, everything happens at a different level, and gets noticed more. That's why, all of a sudden, they were saying that I reinvented keeper play. That's not the case.
Die Welt: In the round of 16 against Algeria, you seemed to be outside your penalty box more than you were in it. Did you think about what would happen if one of your slide tackles missed?
Manuel Neuer: That's part of the job, I am aware of it.
Die Welt: But a mistake and maybe even a red card, and Germany could have been knocked out of the tournament.
Manuel Neuer: I don't take those risks to impress people, I do it for the team. I know one thing: If I had not made those excursions against Algeria, we would have been eliminated.
Die Welt: The keeper is the only one on a team that can't make a mistake. Are you isolated as a one-man unit?
Manuel Neuer: No. It may have been that way in the past. Today, we don't play with ten field players and one goalkeeper, instead, we have 11 players, of which one at the back can touch the ball with his hands. The game has evolved to the point that I am more of a last man than a goalie.
Die Welt: As a goalkeeper, do you have to be a perfectionist?
Manuel Neuer: Yes, absolutely.
Die Welt: Are you one off the field as well?
Manuel Neuer: I allow myself some carelessness. I'm a perfectionist as a goalie, where I want to perfectly resolve every situation, whether it's in a game or in practice. When I'm playing cards, I want to make all the tricks. But whether the pillows on my couch are properly aligned, I really don't care.
Die Welt: So you can silence the goalkeeper in you sometimes?
Manuel Neuer: Sure, otherwise you would go nuts. You need to be human and be able to turn it off. Especially in our job, you need to find the balance between tension and relaxation. Every footballer should be able to do that.
Die Welt: So you don't cry into your pillow at night after making a mistake?
Manuel Neuer: No. But you have to be honest with yourself. There's no point in lying to yourself, and trying to lay the blame somewhere else. I know what happened, and I deal with it. Without tearing myself down. In the end, it needs to be clear, where the fault lies, and how to avoid it in the future.
Die Welt: Can you be happy, when you are constantly cleaning up mistakes?
Manuel Neuer: Of course. There are games, which I am very happy with. Often they don't stand out to the spectators, sometimes even to my fellow players or the coach. Only my goalie coach usually knows how I really did.
Die Welt: You have to explain that.
Manuel Neuer: The spectacular saves are often not the most difficult. But keeping the ball in play, initiating attacks, being dominant in the penalty box - that's important. When I'm able to do that, I can be very happy after games.
Die Welt: What was your best game?
Manuel Neuer: In 2012, we had a 0-0 against Freiburg. The game in the Hinrunde, we won 7-0, so based on the score, it wasn't that great a game. But for me, as a goalkeeper, it was almost perfect. Even if almost nobody else saw it that way.
Die Welt: Are you disappointed, because nobody notices the true art of goalkeeping?
Manuel Neuer: No, I don't care at all. I know the rules: When a keeper stops a penalty kick, he's the hero, but if he doesn't get to a seemingly stoppable shot, he's the idiot. I accept that. That's the business.
Die Welt: How long were you happy after the World Cup final?
Manuel Neuer: I still am. But I know what you mean. You need a little time, to come back down and process everything. A short vacation, and then the daily grind started again. And now I happen to be world champion, but I don't always think about it. And I am still hungry and ambitious.
Die Welt: But as world champion, people are even more interested in you. "Bunte" (a German gossip magazine) even had a whole page, when you broke up with your girlfriend.
Manuel Neuer: (laughs) Luckily I don't have to go to the barber very often, so I don't regularly read those kinds of magazines. That stuff bounces off me. Sure, as a world champion, I was more exciting for people that don't watch football. But that hustle and bustle has died down again.
Die Welt: Has the title changed you?
Manuel Neuer: No.
Die Welt: And the people around you?
Manuel Neuer: Not really. My life has changed less than I would have thought. And that's good. I go on with my life, and don't go running around, getting celebrated as a world champion.
Die Welt: Can you be tempted with money? In England, the new TV contract comes into effect soon...
Manuel Neuer: I've always made my decisions based on sporting perspectives. Therefore, the only thing that's important at my club, is what I can achieve in terms of sporting success.
Die Welt: Then you can't ever change clubs.
Manuel Neuer: That would be nice. Indeed, we are currently experiencing a lot of success. In Germany, we will probably at least make the Champions League every year, and we'll be Meister here and there. Even if it is hard work. Tougher than many think.
Die Welt: The opposition, meanwhile, is happy about close losses to FC Bayern (recently, opposing coaches have expressed satisfaction in not having been whupped by Bayern).
Manuel Neuer: That's the view of the other teams and that makes it their problem, not ours. We invest a lot to have the quality to have the chance to win every game. But nobody ever gifts anyone a German championship.
Die Welt: As a professional, you have earned more money than you will likely be able to spend in your life. A feeling that not many get to experience. Does that give you security?
Manuel Neuer: I don't have to come up with a great business idea after my career, that's true. I'm pretty conservative with my investments. But, I don't want to go through life saying, "I'm all set, I don't care about anything else." I know that my real life is just starting after my career is done, and that I will need a task that will engage me. I don't want to lay around and be lazy. I need something that I can be as ambitious in as I am now.
Die Welt: Karl-Heinz Rummenigge mentioned you in the "Welt am Sonntag" as a possible successor as chairman of the board at FC Bayern.
Manuel Neuer: Interesting idea. But, at the moment, that still seems really far away. I would probably have to start an online degree.
Die Welt: Hurry up, Philipp Lahm is also eyeing the position at FC Bayern.
Manuel Neuer: Philipp is a few years older than me. Maybe I can start as his secretary.