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Uli Hoeness annoyed with Bayern’s medical staff over Neuer injury

Even doctors can get in on the FC Hollywood action.

Bayern Muenchen v RSC Anderlecht - UEFA Champions League Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

It seems that another storm might be brewing at the Säbener Strasse, with Bayern Munich’s medical staff (once again) at the heart of it. The German champions have just lost Manuel Neuer to a recurrent foot injury — the same foot injury that he sustained back in April during Bayern’s Champions League clash against Real Madrid.

Bayern Munich President Uli Hoeness seems to be particularly unhappy with Neuer’s situation and according to Bild (via tz) has expressed criticism of team doctor Dr. Volker Braun. The 44-year-old has been in charge of the club’s medical team since the departure of Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt in 2015 after a row with then Bayern coach Pep Guardiola.

What went wrong

According to Bild, Neuer was treated in Tübingen by a specialist chosen at the advice of Müller-Wohlfart, who still treats numerous Bayern players at his practice in Munich. The ex-Bayern doctor also advised rest to allow the injury to heal completely, because there was a significant risk of a recurrent hairline fracture in Neuer’s left foot. However, it appears that his advice was ignored.

According to Bild, head fitness coach Giovanni Mauri “released” Neuer just 17 days after the operation on his foot. The article does not, however, make clear what the word “released” refers to. Nor does it make it clear what Neuer's rehabilitation timeline was after he was “released.” For a fit athlete like Neuer, 17 days doesn’t seem like an extraordinarily short amount of time to return to normal life — but without a complete timeline, it is impossible to know the truth.

Neuer’s return had in fact already been delayed — he was initially projected to be back for the Supercup against Dortmund, but ended up returning two weeks later against Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga opener. Against Mainz, the Bayern goalkeeper seemed to be playing rather gingerly compared to his usual style, and before that, he was not called up by Germany during the most recent international break in September.

More questions than answers

Did something go wrong here? Giovanni Mauri is not a doctor, but a fitness coach. He has worked with current Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti since his days at Parma. At Real Madrid, it appears he was blamed for a slew of injures in Ancelotti’s second season (e.g. tz), but it remains unclear whether he was actually at fault. Why he is credited with “releasing” Neuer when Dr. Volker Braun is the actual head of the medical staff (and the one who has apparently drawn Uli’s ire) remains unknown.

The article as reported by tz thus contains several contradictions, and it is very difficult to ascertain what (if anything) actually went wrong. We have no accurate timeline of events, and some of the information presented doesn’t add up. Why would a fitness coach have the final say on when Neuer is “released”? And, if so, why would Dr. Braun be in the crossfire because of it?

One is also reminded of the fact that the club’s medical staff has a dubious record when it comes to predicting the duration of injuries. One particularly egregious example was Franck Ribery, who in 2015 was initially expected to miss 4 days but ended up missing 9 months. Jerome Boateng’s recurrent muscular problems also come to mind. However, Neuer’s injury stands out because it is a bone fracture, something that is expected to heal properly given enough time.

Without detailed information about Neuer’s case, it’s impossible to know what happened here. However, Bayern Munich have been known for unfortunate injuries for a long time now, and Pep Guardiola’s comments from 2015 seem to have inklings of truth to them. If a mistake was made, then questions need to be asked and changes have to be made, so that an injury like this cannot happen again.

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