Manuel Neuer hanging up his boots after an illustrious career at the Allianz Arena is a thought that can bring a tear to the eye of most Bayern Munich fans, but the day may be inching closer. Considering Neuer’s recent injury record and his age (32), Bayern have already laid the groundwork for a seamless transition when Manu does decide to hang it up down the line. In honor of his recent debut for the German U19s, we are taking a closer look at the young Bavarian charged with filling the Bayern legend’s boots.
The Christian Fruchtl hype train has been gaining steam since his arrival from SpVgg Grün-Weiß Deggendorf Jugend on a free transfer in 2014 and for good reason. The young goalkeeper has been labeled Manuel Neuer’s heir apparent by just about everyone in the Bavarian brass and he has already meteorically risen through the ranks. Fruchtl currently trains with the first team at the Saebener Strasse and he appears regularly as the first-choice keeper for Bayern II. Despite a brief injury setback last campaign, Fruchtl featured on the bench in the United States preseason tour as an unused substitute behind Sven “The Wall” Ulreich. On the international stage, the 18-year-old recently made his debut for Germany U19.
The young goalkeeper is a native Bavarian and his rise up the ranks seems to be prophecy, at least according to former Sporting Director, Mattias Sammer, and goalkeeping coach, Toni Tapalovic. Tapolovic believes Fruchtl will be between the posts in Munich, “within five years,” while Sammer made it clear in 2016 that his talent is undeniable.
On top of the hype surrounding the young U19 international, he is relishing the opportunity to learn behind the likes of Neuer and Ulreich.
Manu is very grounded, always willing to help and cooperative. He always gives me good tips. The same goes for Sven... Manu is a big role model for me and has been since I was a kid still playing in Niederbayern. But I thought it was also unbelievable what a great season Sven played! Manu is the best goalkeeper in the world, who developed the goalkeeper’s position like no one before him, and who joins the game intelligently so that as few balls fly past his ears as possible. That’s intuition, but its also vast experience. I can still pick up a lot from him.
Fruchtl is not backing down from the prospects of making the jump for Die Roten, and he may have the attributes to do just that.
The 18-year-old sweeper keeper has steadily advanced from one age group to the next, experiencing success at every step along the way. For Bayern U17s, the German racked up six clean sheets in 24 appearances, while he was able to produce eight clean sheets in 18 appearances for the U19s. What is most impressive is his record for Bayern II at his young age, giving up only 19 goals and putting up 10 clean sheets in 25 performances.
Internationally, Fruchtl’s progress has mirrored his path at Bayern as he has appeared for the German U15, U16, U17, U18 and more recently U19.
Although he has been included in the Bayern first team, he has yet to appear in a competitive match. In light of Ulreich’s contribution last season and a potential desire for more first team action, Fruchtl may be in line to take over as second choice keeper sooner rather than later.
The Neuer comparisons are NOT unjustified in the slightest. Fruchtl’s stature, athleticism and footwork back up the talk.
Standing at 6’ 4”, the young starlet already has the height to play at the highest-level. Even Neuer himself has expressed an admiration for Fruchtl’s physical attributes.
At 15, I was training with the juniors, not the pros. Christian is one and a half heads taller than I was at that age.
Even at his age, his massive stature doesn’t hinder his mobility or coordination. He has demonstrated an ability to make impressive reaction saves and get to any part of the goal in a split second. His athleticism is likely his strongest attribute at this point in his career.
Finally, what has been at the core of most comparisons to Neuer is his ability to play with his feet alongside his shot stopping abilities and physical attributes. The Bavarian DFB coordinator, Peter Wimmer, asserted that this was one of the main reasons the youngster garnered attention at such a young age.
Christian became known to the scouting system at a very young age. Initially this was because of his unusual body size, and because he was very good as an outfield player as well as a goalkeeper.
The sweeper keeper has become a staple of modern soccer thanks to Neuer, and Fruchtl’s ball-playing ability is key to a team like Bayern who play the ball out of the back.
What stands between the young shot stopper is not talent, but the mental fortitude to continue progressing. Thankfully, this hot prospect has indicated he is hungrier than ever.
If I was scared I could pack up now. But of course I have respect. This isn’t just another club, it’s the club of the World Goalkeeper. But there is pressure at every position. That’s something you have to deal with even if things aren’t going smoothly...I need to continue to improve, soak up as much as I can and of course gain match experience. The future will show where that will be, but of course I would like to make it at Bayern.
Only time will tell who will be the next great goalkeeper to ply his trade in the Allianz, but this young star is lined up well to continue Bayern’s legacy of world class keepers. Look for him to make his first competitive appearance this season.
Up Next: Let me know who you want profiled next in the comments!