It’s been a quiet summer so far for Sven Ulreich, probably much to his relief. Manuel Neuer’s backup at Bayern Munich has been off duty since the DFB-Pokal final against Eintracht Frankfurt, while his countrymen and teammates have floundered at the World Cup. But as the summer wears on, and plans for his teammates’ return to Säbener Straße have suddenly been bumped up a few weeks, Ulreich too is making plans for the season ahead.
Bild caught up with the goalkeeper recently for an interview. The first question of the day, naturally enough, was about Manuel Neuer. Namely, was Ulreich surprised by Neuer’s performance at the World Cup?
Not at all. I experienced Manu in training in the last few weeks before he joined the national team. He compensates for his lack of playing time with rest and routine. I closely watched Manuel, even at the DFB friendly matches: there is no difference at all in his game. Manu plays on the field as if he was never away. No other goalkeeper in the world has this ability.
Ulreich conceded that he had not followed the entire World Cup, but rather only Germany’s games so as to have a little “football-free time,” but he had seen Loris Karius’s performance in the Champions League final:
I didn’t see it live, but of course I looked at some scenes a few times afterward. I felt incredibly bad for [Karius] in those scenes. That’s simply a goalkeeper’s lot; something like that happens and is human. I had to find that out too this past season.
Bild pressed Ulreich about the similarity of the two errors, Karius’s and his own, but Ulreich remained firm about letting the past go:
You’re lonely as a goalkeeper when you make a mistake. You can have a hundred good games, but people remember the one mistake. I acknowledge that I had a very unfortunate situation in Madrid. I’ll learn from it, but sooner or later you have to move on. Eventually the mistake is behind you, and we can talk about other things again. I won’t let my strong season be written off.
Ulreich is excited about the coming season and looking forward to meeting Niko Kovac. From his reputation, Kovac seems to have an “open ear for every player” like Jupp Heynckes. Most importantly, however, Ulreich hopes that he will receive more opportunities to play as Bayern’s goalkeeper in the coming season, even though Manuel Neuer has now also recovered from his injury:
I know what my role at Bayern Munich is. I’m the no. 2 behind the best goalkeeper in the world. I accept that; otherwise, I would never have extended my contract. But I also have the hope that, after the performances I gave, I’ll get this or that game more than before, even if Manu is fit.
Most Bayern fans would presumably be happy to let their player of the season enjoy that spotlight a little more often, as Niko Kovac strikes a nice balance in his squad rotation.