Manuel Neuer's thumbs-up gesture from the hospital bed, which seemed to be trying, did not match the actual message of the Instagram photo with the leg in plaster and the rather strained facial expression.
The skiing accident of the national soccer goalkeeper and the resulting end of the season after a fracture of the right lower leg sustained while touring caused shock waves around the third Advent in the boardroom of FC Bayern Munich.
Who replaces Neuer?
The quiet Christmas season is over on Säbener Straße. Oliver Kahn and Hasan Salihamidzic are alarmed and suddenly forced to think hard in the goalkeeper position in winter. These are entwined around the again required veteran Sven Ulreich, Alexander Nübel, who was loaned to the French first division club AS Monaco, or Mister X, who could be brought in. As powerful and full of treble dreams as Bayern were drawn into the long World Cup break, the Munich team hobbled out of it as badly damaged.
Star striker Sadio Mané injured his right fibula before the start of the tournament and will probably be out until March. Defender Lucas Hernández suffered a cruciate ligament rupture in Qatar and, like Neuer, will not play again this season. And the German World Cup players around Joshua Kimmich have to pick themselves up mentally after the preliminary round. All of this doesn't sound good. The goals of the season are in jeopardy.
Mountain sports friend Neuer actually had a good idea. He wanted to "clear his head while ski touring," as he wrote in a social media post. The excursion ended in the operating room. "Hey guys, what can I say, the end of the year could have gone better," Neuer commented on his misadventure from the hospital bed.
operation went well
After all, the surgery went "very well". "However, it hurts to know that the current season is over for me." But not the career. With a botched World Cup and the next serious injury, Neuer does not want to step down from the professional stage.
The Bayern bosses also emphasized the future in a short club communiqué. They put their mood first. "The news shocked us all," said CEO Kahn. Sports director Salihamidzic called Neuer's skiing accident "terrible".
Both believe that Neuer will return to the Bayern goal at the age of 37 for the 2023/24 season. "He will also master this serious injury and return to the pitch as strong as before," predicted ex-keeper Kahn. "Manuel will receive every support. He is a strong personality and will come back," assured Salihamidzic.
Will Neuer remain number one in the DFB goal?
Hansi Flick also made a request to speak. "This is very bitter news at the end of the year," said the national coach. The most important thing now is a "quick recovery". The unspoken subtext was: For Flick, Neuer remains part of the national team for the time being. After the useless win against Costa Rica in Neuer's 117th international match, Germany's record goalkeeper had ruled out resigning. He wants to continue playing for Germany "if I'm invited and the performance is right," said the eternal number 1.
Will it come to that? The current fact is that Flick will have to start the start of the 2024 European Championship at the end of March without a new player. It could now be the time of Marc-André ter Stegen (30 / FC Barcelona), who has been waiting for years as the new crown prince for the chance to be number 1 in a major tournament. Frankfurt's Kevin Trapp (32), the third German goalkeeper next to Neuer and ter Stegen in Qatar, can also hope.
Flick initially hit Neuer's long-term failure less hard than Bayern and fellow coach Julian Nagelsmann. He was looking for distraction on Saturday accompanied by his girlfriend as a biathlon spectator in wooden felts. The published bulletin "lower leg fracture" can mean many things. Is Neuer's tibia affected? The fibula? both bones?
Nubel coming back?
Kahn, Salihamidzic and Nagelsmann will have to consider how they want to bridge the time without Neuer. The winter transfer window opens on January 1st. The big round of 16 first leg in the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain with Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé and Neymar is already in mid-February. In Ulreich (34) they have a reliable number 2. Eight games, eight wins is his season record. Because Ulreich stood in for Neuer, who injured his shoulder, in the fall, there was a new contract until 2024 as a sign of appreciation. Behind Ulreich, there is still 19-year-old Johannes Schenk in the squad.
Of course, Alexander Nübel came into play immediately. The 25-year-old moved to Munich from FC Schalke 04 on a free transfer in the summer of 2020. Nübel has a contract with Bayern until 2025, but is loaned to Monaco until the end of the season. Bayern could now try to bring Nübel back early. Does that make sense?
In the at least six months without Neuer, Nübel could show whether he actually has the number 1 format. But he might have to step back into the second rank behind Neuer. The former U21 national goalkeeper had called that a no-go several times. "Before Alexander or I say anything about it, Bayern have to deal with Monaco first," said Nübel consultant Stefan Backs on "Sky" at the weekend.
How does Nagelsmann think? The Bayern coach had certified Ulreich's "outstanding" performance as a new representative. Nübel has not yet played under him in Munich. Ulreich is well-rehearsed with the Bayern defense, Nübel is not. Kahn, Salihamidzic and Nagelsmann will have to decide wisely how to reposition the goalkeeper position without Neuer.