If you are a Bayern fan living in America like I am, you probably woke up to great joy upon seeing the news that Manuel Neuer has put pen to paper at last. After weeks of speculation, the Bayern captain has extended his contract, keeping him in Munich until 2023.
While there is no doubt that the fans are overjoyed, some eyebrows might be raised at Neuer’s decision, specifically in Bayern’s goalkeeping hierarchy. BFW takes a look at who might be positively or negatively impacted by Neuer’s extension.
One of the best backup goalkeepers in the league, if not the world, Sven Ulreich has filled in admirably for Neuer whenever called upon, even being named Bayern’s Player of the Year in 2017/18 after a highly successful season.
That said, Ulreich’s status at the club now remains uncertain. With the imminent arrival of Alexander Nübel, coupled with the fact that Neuer will remain the team’s No. 1 for at least the next few years, Ulreich will have to battle with Nübel to save his position as Neuer’s understudy. Ulreich, who is 31, may leave the club to finish his career elsewhere, rather than be relegated to third-choice goalkeeper in Munich.
Indeed, Ulreich has admitted that he may be open to a move, especially with his contract winding down to his final year. However, he has also claimed that he will do anything but back down willingly, and that he will give it his very best in what could be his last season with Bayern. Ulreich also has the very strong backing of his team, including his captain and coach. Hansi Flick has come out and declared that Nübel will have to fight for his spot, and that Ulreich is doing a great job at the moment. Neuer has also praised Ulreich for his performances when he was in goal.
Whatever happens to Ulreich, he will be fondly remembered in Munich as a professional understudy with a great mindset.
With Neuer set to stay in goal for another three years, Nübel will obviously be playing at least second-fiddle to the Bayern captain for the foreseeable future. This may not be the best scenario for Nübel, because even if he does train with the best goalkeeper in the world, there is no better way of growing as a player than to be actually playing games, which will obviously be difficult as long as Neuer keeps (no pun intended) up his good performances for club and country.
Bayern may be better off by sending Nübel out on loan to another Bundesliga side, or maybe even further afield, for a few seasons. That could benefit Nübel just as it did Serge Gnabry, whom Bayern loaned to Hoffenheim after signing him.
Say Nübel goes out for a two-year loan. Neuer starts in goal for Bayern for the next two seasons, and once Nübel comes back, the two goalkeepers can slowly start rotating in Neuer’s final season. When Neuer’s time at Bayern is up, Nübel can then transition smoothly into Bayern’s goal. This would be the optimal solution, but of course, what will really happen remains to be seen.
Christian Früchtl & Ron-Thorben Hoffmann
Bayern’s youth goalkeepers face a mountain to climb. Their situation was not helped when Nübel signed for Bayern. Since either he or Ulreich are set to be Bayern’s third-choice keeper, it may be hard for Christian Früchtl and Ron-Thorben Hoffmann to break into the first team at all. Now that Neuer has signed a new contract, their already slim odds of starting for Bayern have reached an all time low.
Both goalkeepers are young, but not much younger than Nübel. Nübel is 23, Früchtl is 20, and Hoffmann is 21. With Nübel’s presence, the latter two seem more like direct competitors than the next generation. Früchtl’s agent has said that a loan for his client will probably be the best solution, as it will give Früchtl playing time and a potential case to challenge Nübel for the starting spot once Neuer hangs up his gloves. Hoffmann, meanwhile, has a less than desirable situation, already being Früchtl’s understudy on Bayern’s second team. Should Früchtl be loaned out, it would give Hoffmann the starting spot that he desires, and a potential shot at the first team.
Whatever the case is, though, if Nübel faces considerable time on the bench, the situation does not bode well for either youngster. It would be a shame if they wasted away when they should instead be kick-starting their careers. Hopefully the club can find a solution that benefits both in the light of Neuer’s new contract.
On to some positive impacts: Neuer’s contract extension will undoubtedly go down well with his teammates. After spending the first year of his captaincy recovering from his foot injury, Neuer has performed admirably ever since then. Although his rusty form last season may have raised some eyebrows, he has silenced any remaining doubters with his outstanding saves this season. Under Neuer’s captaincy, the team has won the domestic double and is in very good shape at the moment.
Moreover, Neuer has really grown into his captain’s role, wearing the armband with pride and living up to the lofty standards set by his predecessors. He always goes to his teammates one by one right before kickoff, bumping chests and encouraging them. His leadership has never been questioned by the team, not even when he bellows at them to defend properly with a manic glint in his eye. Indeed, Bayern’s vice-captain Thomas Müller has admitted that he would be happy to see Neuer wear the armband for as long as the two are still at the club, despite the fact that he would be honored to be named Bayern captain himself.
Coach Flick is also a huge fan of Neuer, declaring on multiple occasions that Neuer is the best goalkeeper in the world, and that he is happy to work with him. He has also come out and said that Neuer will remain Bayern’s first choice goalkeeper after Nübel’s arrival. The feeling is mutual, apparently, with Neuer also heaping praise on his coach. Likewise, Neuer is an integral part of Bayern’s current squad, appreciated by both players and staff alike. If anyone will be celebrating Neuer’s contract extension, it will be them.