The news that Manuel Neuer will be out for the rest of the season has rocked the serial Bundesliga champions. Recalling Alexander Nübel from his loan at Monaco is the preferred option – but it’s not straightforward.
Manuel Neuer’s freak skiing accident has left him with a fractured leg and unable to play again for the rest of the season.
It’s a personal blow for Neuer, who will be 37 by the time he returns to the field and is in the twilight of his career. But it’s an immediate concern for his club, who face the unexpected challenge of having to fill their captain’s gloves before the Bundesliga resumes in January.
Bayern Munich CEO Oliver Kahn has been putting a brave face on the mini-crisis. “Of course, we will think about it calmly,” he told German football magazine kicker while emphasizing confidence in Neuer’s deputy Sven Ulreich.
Nübel needs guarantee of ‘maximum backing’
While Ulreich offers a stop-gap solution, there is limited desire from Bayern’s other top-class goalkeeper — Alexander Nübel — to return from his successful loan at Monaco.
Nübel signed for Bayern on a free transfer from Schalke in 2020 but, despite a guarantee from Bayern of game time, played only four times before heading to Monaco in search of minutes. Nübel, who is considered by Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic to be Neuer’s long-term replacement, signed a two-year loan with the French club that included the option for Bayern to recall him after a year.
That option lapsed in the summer, with Neuer signing a new deal with Bayern two years ago and showing no signs of hanging up his gloves. Nübel, 26 and a rising star, has become one of Monaco’s key players — but Neuer remains on top of his game and could yet play on for a few more years.
Nübel’s time in France has been successful and, according to his agent, he is yet to be approached by Bayern about a possible early recall. But even if Nübel were to return to Bavaria in January, it would need to come with guarantees over his long-term prospects at Bayern — with Nübel’s standing having strengthened given his development at Monaco.
“I haven’t had any contact with Bayern, and Alex hasn’t heard anything from Munich either,” Stefan Backs told the DPA news agency. “It’s not an easy situation for the club because they have to change their thoughts completely. You need calm for that. That may be the reason nobody has contacted us yet. Alex signed a contract with Bayern to play there at some point.
“However, conditions must be met for that to happen. Therefore, before taking such a step, we would first have to discuss with the people in charge at Bayern. Alex needs maximum backing,” Backs added.
Navas and Livakovic in the frame
Should Bayern fail in their attempts to lure Nübel back from Monaco, who would have to be compensated for the loss of their No. 1 goalkeeper, Bayern are reportedly eyeing up alternatives.
One of these is Keylor Navas, the former Real Madrid keeper who has slipped down the pecking order at Paris Saint-Germain, becoming the understudy to Gianluigi Donnarumma. His performances at the World Cup for Costa Rica showed that the 35-year-old still has plenty in the tank, but whether PSG would be willing to strengthen a Champions League rival mid-season remains an open question.
Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic has shot to prominence in Qatar with a string of fine performances — not least in Croatia’s penalty shootout wins over Japan and Brazil. Livakovic saved three of Japan’s spot kicks and denied Brazil’s Rodrygo four days later.
Sommer and Trapp compelling options
Should Germany choose to buy domestic, Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Yann Sommer or Eintracht Frankfurt’s Kevin Trapp could be compelling longer-term options.
Both goalkeepers have impressed in the Bundesliga in recent years and Sommer, who turns 34 next week, is out of contract in the summer of 2023 and has reportedly already attracted attention from Manchester United. Sommer would come relatively cheap and the January transfer window would be Gladbach’s final chance to get a fee for him.
Trapp, 32, has played at the top level for Paris Saint-Germain and was a key member of Frankfurt’s Europa League-winning team last season. Previously, a move to Bayern Munich would have been seen as a step up the ladder but, with Frankfurt still in the Champions League themselves, the 32-year-old may prefer to continue this campaign with the Eagles.
Regardless, with Neuer out only expected to be out for six months, will any top-class keeper be satisfied warming the bench once Germany’s number one has recovered?