In an extract from Grant Wahls new volume, the Germany and Bayern Munich captain reveals his goalkeeping philosophy and explains his sweeper-keeper role
Modern football has a lot in common with the German autobahn. The velocity of video games has no restrictions these days and the players are like finely calibrated sports cars: faster, sleeker and more powerful than ever. Movement is constant, and yet there remains an order to things, a reminder that even on the leading edge, there are forces that avoid chaos. No player better represents this than Manuel Neuer, the world’s best goalkeeper, who has redefined his position.” I’m a little bit risky, but I’m standing for security and protection, and you have to give your team-mates that feeling as well ,” tells Neuer, captain of Bayern Munich and Germany.” In life, I’m a guy who likes to drive a car quite fast, but I wear a seat belt at the same day .”
Surrounded by Champions League trophies in the Bayern Munich boardroom, the 6ft 4in, 210 lb Neuer devotes off an aura of physical power, a combination of size, strength and the potential of motion at high speed. Neuer speaks better English than he lets on at first, and he depicts a special pleasure from discussing his ultimate fast-lane experience, even if that entails taking heart-stopping risks as the last line of defense.” It’s up to me to help my defenders and it’s better for me to get the ball before the striker than to[ just waiting] have a one-on-one situation in the box ,” he tells.” That’s more dangerous than to go out, because the striker has the chance to score a goal. If he can’t get the ball, he won’t get any possibility .”
The downside of Neuer’s approach is the football version of hara-kiri. If he miscalculates the velocity and trajectory of the ball or the striker and arrives too late, he may confess a aim and appear silly in the process.” I don’t feel the dread in my head in this moment ,” he says.” I am always guessing positive. It’s all about the first step. If I guess I will get the ball, I go out. I can’t stop halfway because the goal is empty and the player would have the opportunity to shoot. You make the reaction, and then, of course, you have to be sure to get the ball. But it’s years of practice. You can’t say from one day to the other:’ Now I will do it ,’ you know? You have to feel it .”
When Neuer speaks about his goalkeeping influences as a kid, one uncover aspect is his division between German and non-German keepers and his association of the word “modern” with those who hail from outside Germany.” In Germany, Jens Lehmann was a model style for a German goalkeeper ,” Neuer says of the player who expended 10 seasons at Schalke, the club that developed Neuer.” In the international style, my idol was[ the Netherlands ‘] Edwin van der Sar. He was so modern, much more modern than Lehmann. He had another level. He could play with his left and right foot and go out of the box and go out to get crosses. He was present as a personality. Then there was Oliver Kahn: his reflexes, his ambition. He developed hard, and in that sense he was my idol. So I have some different pieces put together. It’s like having a lot of coaches, and you save something from the coach that you think is good for you- and that becomes you .”
Of all the goalkeeper coach-and-fours Neuer has had over the years, the one he idolizes the most is Toni Tapalovic, who was hired by Bayern Munich at Neuer’s request when he joined the club in 2011. Like Neuer, Tapalovic was born in Gelsenkirchen and played in goal for Schalke. The two men are merely five years apart in age, and they developed a connect during Neuer’s formative years with the club.” When he was the No 2 goalkeeper[ at Schalke ], I was very young ,” Neuer tells.” He knew that I was a little bit better than him, but he always told me that I had to do more. He remained outside and worked with me when the team was going into the dressing room. And he was my colleague, so we had friendship and cooperation processes on the pitching. After that, he had a lot of injuries- two shoulders, a knee, hip- and he stopped his[ playing] career and started at Schalke to help coach-and-four the goalkeepers. I recommended him to Bayern. I think he has brought me to my best level .”
A goalkeeper from the age of four, he detected early on that he had a leading foot and a stand leg, and for him it felt more comfortable to leap to his left than to his right in order to make a save. Dives to his right, he says, would often result in awkward landings that devoted him bruises on his right hip.
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