Euro 2012 Players to Watch: Manuel Neuer of Germany
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Germany and Bayern Munich’s latest No. 1, Manuel Neuer, succeeded in proving his worth to the latter’s fans this past season.
Success of a more tangible variety proved more elusive for the goalkeeper, however, as Bayern found themselves second best in the campaign’s various deciders. Neuer will be keen to play his part in ensuring the German national side go one better at Euro 2012.
Neuer in Numbers
Neuer was born on March 27, 1986 in Gelsenkirchen, the city of Schalke 04, for whom he would play 190 games after becoming their first-choice goalkeeper in the 2006-07 season.
Only 20 years old upon becoming a first-team regular, Neuer has since continued to enhance his reputation as one of European football’s best goalkeepers.
In keeping with the fortunes of a club who have not been able to add to their seven German championships since their last success in 1957-58, Neuer alone was unable to help bring the success Schalke fans crave, getting as close as runners-up in his inaugural Bundesliga season and again in 2009-10.
One piece of silverware did arrive the following season in the form of the German Cup. Neuer was an ever-present, recording four clean sheets in six rounds (only conceding three goals), two of which came in the semifinals (a 1-0 win over Bayern) and in the 5-0 final demolition of MSV Duisburg.
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A major hint that his future may lie elsewhere of his hometown club came in the form of Neuer’s elevation to the Germany No. 1 spot. That rapid progression contained a fortuitous element in the form of an injury to the previous occupant, Rene Adler, before the 2010 World Cup, but from there, Neuer made it his own.
Other than in the third/fourth playoff match, Neuer was between the sticks for each of Germany’s six games in the tournament, performing impeccably with only three goals conceded.
To date, his busiest season was the 2010-11 campaign in which the goalkeeper played 52 games as Schalke battled on three fronts (two domestic competitions and the Champions League). The following season, Neuer’s first at Bayern, saw him contend with a similar schedule again.
Instead of his appearance numbers, the most interesting statistic is the 26-year-old's 99 saves (in all competitions), a number down substantially from the 186 he made in his final year with Schalke.
At face value, it is a statistic that may suggest a far cushier job with the Bavarian giants. But that does not take into consideration the importance of the saves he did have to make.
What to Expect from Neuer at Euro 2012
Speaking of which, Neuer goes into the European Championships with every right to feel confident in his own ability.
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Bayern’s season of second-bests is no way an indictment of their goalkeeper, as Neuer can certainly feel satisfied with his own performances in the games that mattered, if not the end results.
In the Bundesliga, he has been exemplary, playing a major part in Bayern’s league-best defence (overall, at least) that conceded just 22 times and managed 17 shutouts.
If that says more about Neuer’s overall consistency and long-term prospects as Germany’s best goalkeeper, then his recent exploits in the Champions League will give his countrymen further reason to feel optimistic about his tournament aptitude.
Neuer saved twice in a semifinal penalty shootout win over Real Madrid, helping Bayern to a victory few had believed was in the cards. The final against Chelsea saw him get his team off to the best possible start, saving from Juan Mata and even contributing one of the spot-kicks himself, only for his teammates to come up short.
Germany will hope not to leave that late in Euro 2012 but will be glad to have a goalkeeper who has proven himself capable in such circumstances.
Joachim Low’s young side go into the tournament as one of the favourites after a strong showing at the last World Cup and a perfect qualification campaign.
Neuer was ever-present throughout, as the Germans won all 10 games in impressive fashion. The value of himself and several of his Bayern teammates was underlined in the most recently friendly outing, a 5-3 loss away at Switzerland, in which they rested after the Champions League final.
What They Say About Neuer
Neuer’s national team boss Low has demonstrated his faith in his keeper by making him his first choice since the World Cup in South Africa. But the German coach has undoubtedly been pleased with his progression and applauded Neuer’s decision to move to Bayern last year, as reported on FIFA.com:
He has the expectation of playing in the Champions League every year. For him that means developing and progressing. It is also a good move for Bayern to have lots of German players.
Former Bayern and Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn has been a fan for sometime too, telling Bild in December 2010 of his high hopes for Neuer’s future:
I think he will become world class…(Iker) Casillas of Real Madrid, Chelsea's (Petr) Cech and (Gianluigi) Buffon of Juventus are world class. Julio Cesar of Inter Milan is also good. And Manuel Neuer can get into that category.
Thus far, indications are that Kahn was right.
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