Both Bayern Munich and the German men’s national team received a significant blow this week with the news that two of its stars — keeper Manuel Neuer and midfielder Leon Goretzka — have come down with a confirmed case of COVID-19. It’s a stark reminder of the continued presence of the pandemic, and the continuing and serious threat of transmission posed by the currently dominant BA.5 variant.
The players are now out of Germany’s Nations League fixtures this week — two of the final tune-ups before the 2022 Men’s World Cup in Qatar — and their status for Bayern’s restart next Friday against Bayer 04 Leverkusen is also in doubt. Per Bild, as captured by @iMiaSanMia:
Manuel Neuer and Leon Goretzka are likely to remain in domestic isolation until Tuesday. As of now, it’s questionable whether they will be available against Leverkusen on Friday and whether it makes sense from a medical point of view to play 9 days after the infection.
Bayern doctors have a track record of being careful and judicious even in the face of competitive needs — notably holding Alphonso Davies out for an extended period last season after scans revealed he had developed inflammation in his heart muscle following his bout with COVID-19. To quote from our article back then:
Bild spoke to a cardiologist and pharmacologist based in Hamburg, Prof. Dr. Thomas Meinertz, who said, “You have to take a break from heavy training or competitive games for at least four weeks. After that, the patient must be re-examined. He should only start training again on the advice of a doctor.” He reiterated that in 90% of cases, the heart will heal itself of myocarditis on it’s own.
Germany’s most recent experience with COVID-19 recovery involved Lea Schüller, star Bayern striker and Germany’s footballer of the year. She tested positive at the Women’s European Championships this summer on July 11th just before the Spain match, did not make the matchday roster on July 16th against Finland, and was an unused substitute on July 21st (vs Austria) and July 27th (vs France) before returning for the Final vs England on July 31st — and even then as a last-minute replacement for the venerable Alexandra Popp, who was injured in warm-ups.
Neuer and Goretzka tested positive September 21st; the Leverkusen game is September 30th. A Champions League test against Viktoria Plzeň follows on October 4th, with Der Klassiker and a trip to Borussia Dortmund on October 8th — by which time it’ll still have been only 16 days. But never mind what the schedule says — health and safety first, always!
Marcel Sabitzer or Ryan Gravenberch should be ready to fill in for Goretzka if called upon, and backup keeper Sven Ulreich may now be looking at his first Bundesliga minutes of the season.