Posted on Tuesday, 29th June 2010 by Ivor Irwin
Twenty-four years-old, 6’ 5” tall, blond and handsome, Neuer seems to be a natural successor to a line of successful German international goalkeepers like Hansi Tilkowski, Harald ‘Toni’ Schumacher, Bodo Illgner, Andreas Kopke, Oliver Kahn and Kahn’s rival, his own idol, the cranky, difficult Jens Lehmann.
Germany’s victory over England yesterday is a perfect case in point.
Nobody can fail to have been impressed by his quick-minded act of gathering and hoofing the ball clear after a Frank Lampard shot had bounced over the goal line, ricocheting in off the upright. Clearly, Neuer had no clue in that split-second as to whether the ref would blow his whistle late for a goal or not. The rest was luck, but, obviously, Neuer owns the kind of intelligence and moxy the English haven’t seen between the sticks since Peter Shilton retired.
So it’s no wonder that Sir Alex Ferguson and the whole scurvy crew of Bavarian footie veterans who run Bayern München so well are slobbering at the prospect of signing him. One thing is for sure: He will cost somebody a lot of money. Is he going to be worth it?
Involved with the club since he was five, Young Manuel was only 20 when he deposed a wily, seasoned Frank Rost at Schalke ’04. At only 21, the Gelsenkirchen Kid was a penalty-saving hero for his home town club in the second round of the Champions League against a vastly superior but unlucky Porto side. Exactly a year ago, he was part of the Germany under-21 team that won the European Championship against England. After the brilliant veteran Robert Enke tragically committed suicide and his deputy René Adler suffered a rib injury, Neuer was entrusted with the job of keeping goal for the full national side at the World Cup.
Jens Lehmann is among those who aren’t so sure about him though as the former national ‘keeper told Bild:
“If we want to be world champions, it would be difficult to imagine it with Manuel Neuer as our number one goalkeeper. He will make a good goalkeeper one day, but right now he is definitely not ready.”
Lehmann has a point, Neuer can be erratic. He was definitely at fault for Ivory Coast’s first goal in a friendly against Germany in November 2009, his clearance bouncing straight to a waiting Emmanuel Eboue, who lobbed it into the goal. Although his stats show he is an unrivaled shot-stopper, Neuer is definitely prone to costly lapses in concentration. Still, Neuer is only 24. We must remember that, at 24, Edwin Van Der Saar was being repeatedly booed by Ajax’s demanding fans for a handful of errors, too, and went through the same thing later during a very bad patch at Juventus when he was in his pomp.
The pressure at this World Cup should show us a lot about his mental state now. Despite being out of position when Matthew Upson headed home a Steven Gerrard cross in Germany’s 4-1 win over England, Neuer has been pretty solid. Coach Jogi Löw has been crafty about Neuer using his strong throwing arm and accurate kicks to launch quick counter attacks, two of which led to goals for Germany against England. Character-wise, Neuer’s has been considered a local fan hero after getting involved in a number of physical incidents at Ruhr derby matches against an intimidatingly physical Borussia Dortmund team. The lad is feisty. The Old Trafford faithful will like that!
My feeling is that the Gaffer will wait another year and give both Ben Amos and Tomas Kucszak a fair shake as Edwin Van Der Saar’s understudy before spending big money on the likes of Neuer, Adler or David deGea. Will Neuer still be with Schalke ’04 next year? We’ll see!