Sven (The Wall) Ulreich’s rise in the hearts of Bayern Munich fans can be described as nothing less than meteoric. Despite his costly performance in the UEFA Champions League semifinal, the former VFB Stuttgart keeper filled in admirably for arguably the best goalkeeper to ever play the game, Manuel Neuer. With the return of Neuer to full fitness, a new manager, and Christian Früchtl nipping at his heals, Ulreich has reached a cross-roads in his career.
In a recent interview with FC Bayern Munich’s official website, Ulreich opened up about his role in Bavaria.
I know my role. I was really happy to play more often. It was great to play in the team this season. But I know that Manu is the world’s best goalkeeper. You can see every day that he’s a great keeper. That’s why I’m ready to be the number two but I will still give my all. I always hope I can get to play one or two games to maintain rhythm.
Despite Ulreich’s seeming acceptance of his role as second-choice keeper, the German would be first-choice at most clubs in the Bundesliga, and even some sides in the Champions League. New coach Niko Kovac will have another selection headache to address in his first year as he weighs Ulreich’s desire for matches against Manuel Neuer’s class.
Although the German keeper arrived in Munich as a formidable force, he credits Bayern’s staff with his development as a player.
Toni [Tapalovic] is a great bloke. I’ve got on brilliantly with him since day one. He’s showed me loads of videos and invested a lot of time in me. It was worth it. I’m still working to improve myself and there are certain areas of fine tuning. He’s a great goalkeeping coach and it’s fun working with him. He brings the right mix of ease and focused work. He has definitely played a big part in my development.
In the same interview the 29-year-old also addressed the new manager, alluding to an easier life as a goalkeeper.
At the moment, we’re training twice a day. We’ll see what happens during the season. Not much changes for a goalkeeper compared with an outfield player. There are a couple of new tactical ideas but the goalkeeping coach is more important for the goalkeeper. And the head coach also has ideas of what he expects from the goalkeeper. That’s why little has changed except for the training session times and intensity.
I’m not much of a runner so I’m glad I don’t have to do much running. But I think if they [field players] had to do two hours of goalkeeping training then they wouldn’t be that happy either.
Ulreich has demonstrated a positivity throughout his time in the Bavarian capital as he has continuously prioritized team accolades over individual recognition. He has sustained his optimism in the face of more rigorous training.
Of course, you do it to be successful. Titles are the target and it all starts from the beginning each season. The foundations are laid in the pre-season. If we are fit and play our usual, solid game then it will difficult for the other teams.
Sven the Wall will forever be beloved by Bayern fans for his admirable cameo in place of Neuer, who is cemented as a club legend, but this season may be decisive for the 29-year-old in more ways than one. If Neuer can stay healthy and Früchtl can prove his worth, Ulreich may find his time in the first-team limited. As The Wall gets closer to 30, he may desire another chance at first-team soccer/football that Bayern cannot provide.
Has Ulreich earned more game time?