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regular-article-logo Thursday, 18 July 2024

Euro 2024: Is Manuel Neuer still Germany's best goalkeeper?

Manuel Neuer's mistakes means a conversation around Germany's goalkeeper is happening ahead of Euro 2024. Is it Marc-André ter Stegen's turn? Supporters are split

Deutsche Welle Published 14.06.24, 01:23 PM
Few nations can boast keepers as good as Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Manuel Neuer

Few nations can boast keepers as good as Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Manuel Neuer Deutsche Welle

The 4,000 fans watching Germany's open training session in Herzogenaurach basked in the sunshine and the chance to experience their heroes close up before the European Championship. Goals were cheered, autographs were signed, and the next step towards building a sense of euphoria in Germany was taken.

In focus, as always, were Champions League winner Toni Kroos, Bayern Munich talent Jamal Musiala and legendary goalkeeper Manuel Neuer — the two midfielders for the hope they bring, the latter, though, with a little concern.

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In the space of five days, Neuer made two errors while on Germany duty, with the second one gifting a goal in Germany's warmup win over Greece. The mistakes are not solely his — Germany's defense also deserves criticism — but they are enhanced because he is a goalkeeper, because he is Manuel Neuer, a player who doesn't usually make such errors, and because a home Euros is on the doorstep.

Neuer clearly number one

Coach Julian Nagelsmann has made it clear since March that Neuer is the number one and doubled down on that despite the 38-year-old's errors. Sporting director Rudi Völler has said Neuer is undoubtedly still the man.

"Manuel has our full trust," Völler told Bild, a German tabloid. "We can't forget that his saves before [the mistake in the Greece game] were world-class and stopped the team from going behind. We don't need a discussion about our goalkeeper right now."

Externally though, there very much is one. Bild also ran a poll on the subject, and of the 80,000 participants, 72% voted in favor of Neuer's deputy, Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen, 32. Some of the fans watching the training session in the Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach shared a similar perspective.

"I would pick ter Stegen. With Neuer, the last few games [are reason enough] and he didn't play that regularly. Ter Stegen was recently named best player in Spain, there are reasons for that. I think he'd be the better choice, but the head coach definitely knows more than me," said Roman, referring to the Barcelona keeper being named the Spanish league's best player in the 2022-23 season.

"Neuer was superb, especially in 2014," said Martin. "But based on current performances, I would pick ter Stegen. We have a luxury problem with the goalkeepers because in Neuer and ter Stegen, we have brilliant keepers, but right now, I would pick ter Stegen."

Fellow Germany fan Tobias added: "I don't know. I couldn't decide. I think Neuer has the edge so probably him."

Tom said: "Neuer because he has performed so well in recent years and is very reliable."

History between the two

It is not the first time the debate has arisen. In 2018, ter Stegen's form and fitness looked to have given him the edge over Neuer, but the Bayern Munich keeper retained the number one spot in what proved to be a forgettable World Cup campaign in Russia.

In 2019, the two battled for the spot again, with Neuer winning out once more. Neuer's lower leg fracture after the World Cup in Qatar had him out for almost a year, but ter Stegen deputized during a bumpy period for Germany. Hansi Flick's era came to a crashing end as the team lost 4-1 at home to Japan, with ter Stegen in goal for three straight defeats and seven goals.

Things looked better in March for both Germany and the Barcelona man though, bringing Neuer's current dip in form into greater focus.

Manuel Neuer made a great double save in Germany's 2-1 win vs. Greece

Manuel Neuer made a great double save in Germany's 2-1 win vs. Greece Deutsche Welle

While Germany's future keeper remains unclear, as striker Niclas Füllkrug recently said, the country is "spoiled in the goalkeeper position and has a surplus of choices."

A World Cup winner and a significant factor in Germany's success, Neuer is one of the best goalkeepers to ever play the role. Although ter Stegen's national team form has always been patchy, he has gone from strength to strength since joining Barcelona. Being crowned the league's best player last year is a remarkable achievement for a goalkeeper.

Germany's players have been public with their support for Neuer. "Manu has an exceptional presence about him. Of course, the focus is on the negative right now, but we're all behind him," Füllkrug said, while midfielder Pascal Groß added: "I am amazed at how good he is."

There is no doubt that Neuer will be Germany's number one when they play Scotland on Friday. If Neuer's performance is what the world and the country have been accustomed to in recent tournaments rather than weeks, the conversation will be over. If another mistake follows, then Nagelsmann may well have a decision to make.

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