Over the past few days, we covered two top 10 pieces, focusing on the best goals of the calendar year. Today, on the first day of the new year, I think it’s time we round off our top 10 trilogy with a piece about our number 1, Manuel Neuer. These are the top 10 saves that he made in 2020. Now, I know both Alex Nubel and Sven Ulreich featured in a few games, but Neuer played all but three games this past year, and every save on this list came from him. Once you read about them, you’ll see why. Auf geht’s!
10. Manuel Neuer vs TSG Hoffenheim
DFB-Pokal Round of 16, 2019/20
Score when save occurred: 3-1, FT: 4-3
We kick things off (no pun intended) with this beauty against Hoffenheim in the Pokal. With the men from Munich 3-1 up, Hoffenheim were looking to stage a late comeback. They got just the opportunity to start it late in the second half, when a lovely one-two found Steven Zuber one-on-one with Neuer. The Swiss international volleyed the ball straight towards the top corner, but Neuer stretched his arm and palmed the ball away to safety.
Considering Hoffenheim did indeed come close to a dramatic comeback with two goals in the last ten minutes of the game, that save turned out to be just as important as it was impressive. Neuer also punched the ball away during Hoffenheim’s last corner of the game, ensuring his team would win in regulation time.
9. Manuel Neuer vs Werder Bremen
Bundesliga Matchday 8, 2020/21
Score when save occurred: 0-0, FT: 1-1
In a game when Bayern’s defense is in shambles (so basically every game nowadays), they can always count on captain Neuer to bail them out, as shown in this particular instant against Bremen. Targeting Bayern’s tired players after a long, arduous international break, Josh Sargent got on the edge of a cross and volleyed from point blank range, only for Neuer to keep him at bay with an outstretched leg. The battle wasn’t over, though, as the ball fell to Ludwig Augustinsson, who fired a precise shot into the bottom cor-nope, Neuer reacted with lightning-fast reflexes and saved it again, making two world-class stops in the space of just a few seconds.
That was the best of Neuer’s saves that day, but it certainly wasn’t his last, with the Bayern skipper having to deny Sargent again with a massive save in the second half to make sure his side salvaged a point. The game may not have been perfect, but Neuer darn near was.
8. Manuel Neuer vs Red Bull Salzburg
UEFA Champions League Group Stage Matchday 4, 2020/21
Score when save occurred: 3-0, FT: 3-1
Another double save makes the list, this time in the Champions League. Bayern were 3-0 up and cruising, but had lost Marc Roca to a red card. It was therefore extremely important to make sure that the lead would not be blown, and thankfully, Neuer was on hand (literally).
Mergim Berisha, who would eventually score Salzburg’s consolation goal, got the ball after his initial attempt came off David Alaba, and fired a powerful shot from close range, but Neuer managed to parry it. The rebound unfortunately fell right to Salzburg’s Enock Mwepu, who shot from inside the six-yard box, but Neuer somehow managed to make himself big enough to deflect the shot over the bar with his chest. That all happened in three seconds.
That save was only two of Neuer’s ten saves made that night. To put that into perspective, Salzburg had eleven shots on target. Neuer saved all except one. Wow.
7. Manuel Neuer vs Borussia Dortmund
DFL Super Cup, 2020/21
Score when save occurred: 2-2, FT: 3-2
Neuer has made his fair share of great saves against Dortmund, most notably in the Champions League final in 2013. This time though, it was in a Super Cup final.
Erling Haaland had already pulled Dortmund back into the game with an equalizer, and he faced Neuer 1-on-1 again in a very similar situation. But he wouldn’t be celebrating again, as his shot that seemed destined for the inside of the near post was parried by a strong right hand from Neuer. Granted, it wasn’t the most difficult save, as the angle favored Neuer rather than Haaland, but try stopping a shot from that young man from just a few yards out, it’s not easy either.
It was a save that meant Bayern avoided going 3-2 down after being 2-0 up, and it also meant that Bayern stayed in the game until ten minutes from time, when Joshua Kimmich scored the goal that won them the Super Cup. It was the fifth trophy that Neuer lifted in 2020.
6. Manuel Neuer vs Union Berlin
Bundesliga Matchday 11, 2020/21
Score when save occurred: 0-0, FT: 1-1
We have a lot of one-on-one saves for you today, and this is one of them. Remember what I said about Bayern’s shambolic defense earlier? Well, get ready for another defensive wacko.
Not even a minute had gone on the clock when a long ball from Union’s half suddenly found Liverpool loanee Taiwo Awoniyi facing Neuer alone. The Nigerian raced into the penalty area and shot towards the far corner, only for Neuer to parry it away with his right glove. I remember gaping once at our defensive howler, and once again at that stunning save.
Bayern were spared a lot of embarrassment by their captain, but it didn’t take long for Union to score anyway: four minutes, as a matter of fact. Thankfully, Robert Lewandowski managed to equalize in the second half to bring a point back to Munich.
5. Manuel Neuer vs FC Barcelona
UEFA Champions League Quarterfinal, 2019/20
Score when save occurred: 1-1, FT: 8-2(!)
Now, let’s be real, Bayern tore Barcelona apart that night, and it was far from Neuer’s busiest game of his career. However, it certainly wasn’t his easiest either. Barcelona were peppering Neuer’s goal for around fifteen minutes, and Neuer had to be alert and make some strong saves to make sure his team held on until Ivan Perisic started the massacre.
Nelson Semedo’s through ball found Luis Suarez one-on-one with Neuer, and El Pistolero tried chipping him from close range. Neuer, though, raced towards Suarez and made his body big, deflecting the shot away. A prime example of how to stop a lone chance. Seriously, Neuer should write a book about stopping one-on-ones, I don’t even know how many I’ve written about so far.
Thanks to Neuer’s heroics in goal, Bayern were able to push through Barcelona’s early surge, and, well, we all know what happened after that, don’t we?
4. Manuel Neuer vs Sevilla
UEFA Super Cup, 2020/21
Score when save occurred: 1-1, FT: 2-1
Another Super Cup, another super save from Manuel Neuer. Bayern were tied at one with Sevilla with extra time rapidly approaching, but lo and behold, someone else was rapidly approaching Bayern’s defense, and that was Youssef En-Nesyri.
The Moroccan was released by Jesus Navas while two Bayern defenders swarmed the latter, becoming completely open with only the keeper to beat. It was up to him to win the cup for Sevilla, but Neuer dived to his right and smoothly stopped En-Nesyri’s low shot.
What makes the save even more remarkable was that because it was a counterattacking situation, Neuer was completely out of position at first, so he didn’t have much time to run back to his goal, position himself correctly, and dive the right way. But he did all of that in a mere eight seconds.
Sadly, the fist bump that Neuer attempted right after that save was completely ignored by his teammates. Needless to say, he looked very disappointed.
3. Manuel Neuer vs VfL Wolfsburg
Bundesliga Matchday 12, 2020/21
Score when save occurred: 2-1, FT: 2-1
We enter our top three with this worldie. Bayern were 2-1 up and just minutes away from finishing their home campaign of the year with a crucial win. But Wolfsburg were not willing to let their unbeaten run end, and in the dying minutes, they got their chance.
Wout Weghorst found Bartosz Bialek darting into a pocket of space, and there it was, their best shot at an equalizer. The shot was powerful and well placed. Neuer, however, was placed even better, and he somehow precisely got his left hand to the ball and palmed it over the bar. You should have seen the faces on the Wolves’ faces, you’ll find them under the words ‘shock’ and ‘disbelief’ in the dictionary.
Bayern ended the match 2-1 and ended their two-game winless streak at the same time, not to mention closing out their home campaign unbeaten in 2020. It would have felt like a loss if it weren’t for Neuer’s save, but he saved it, we won, and wrote history.
Oh, and he also did a Cruyff turn.
2. Manuel Neuer vs Werder Bremen
Bundesliga Matchday 32, 2019/20
Score when save occurred: 1-0, FT: 1-0
No matter who you’re facing, away trips are never easy, and Bremen away on the third to last matchday of the season was no exception. With the rain pouring down, Bayern were a goal up but a man down after Alphonso Davies’ red card, and Bremen were desperately pressing for an equalizer.
In stoppage time, Yuya Osako got on the end of a lovely lofted ball and gave it the slightest touch with his head. The ball veered off course and flew towards the bottom corner. It had to go in. It just had to. And it probably would have, if Bayern’s goalkeeper wasn’t a certain Manuel Neuer, who somehow got his fingertips to the ball and pushed it away.
Having crushed Bremen’s hopes by that one save, Neuer and Bayern went on to defend their one-goal lead and win. It was an extra special win because it was the win that sealed the Bundesliga for the eighth year in a row. Neuer, who would hoist the Meisterschale in a few days’ time, made sure that he and his team would have nothing to worry about in the last two matchdays with that stunning save of his.
1. Manuel Neuer vs Paris Saint-Germain
UEFA Champions League Final, 2019/20
Score when save occurred: N/A (Whole Game), FT: 1-0
The Champions League final is where big names perform and demonstrate why their names are so big. Luckily for Bayern, Neuer did just that on one of the biggest stages in football.
He started things off with this double save against Neymar. The most expensive player in the world targeted the space between Neuer’s legs after being released by Kylian Mbappe, but Neuer spread his legs wide and shifted his body low, minimizing said space, and parried the shot. The ball fell back to Neymar, who tried to cut it back for Angel di Maria, but Neuer put his body between the Argentine and the ball and blocked it with his leg.
In the second half, Neuer bailed out David Alaba when Di Maria nutmegged him with one simple pass. Marquinhos rushed into the penalty area to latch onto that pass, but Neuer denied him with his right boot.
And then came the highlight. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (yep, the same guy who plays for Bayern now) threaded a precise ball to Mbappe, who shot at Neuer from little more than a few yards out. But Neuer didn’t flinch and made a stunning save with his boot at point blank range. Yes, Mbappe was offside, but that save was enough to diminish PSG’s hopes of winning the final. Neuer’s pose after the save said it all: arms firmly outstretched with a face that clearly said ‘I can and I will save everything.’
Neuer used his legs and feet more than his hands in that night’s final, but he would use his hands to do one very important thing: lift the Champions League trophy as Bayern Munich’s captain. We couldn’t be prouder.