Manuel Neuer’s ‘cheeky’ contract demands could signal the end of an era at Bayern Munich… and Chelsea can offer him what he craves – the chance to be No 1 until the age of 39 and prove he’s STILL the world’s best
- Manuel Neuer has yet to agree terms on a new contract with Bayern Munich
- The Germany No 1 has made it clear he is looking for a five-year deal to stay on
- His stand-off with the Bundesliga giants has other clubs on red alert
- A departure from the Allianz Arena could spell the end of an era for the club
- A move to the Premier League with Chelsea is a viable option for all parties
Bavaria had already been in lockdown for four days when Frank Kroth was spotted sneaking his way into Bayern Munich’s leafy HQ last Tuesday.
With trips to work still allowed in the southern German state, Manuel Neuer’s agent defied calls to stay at home in order to meet Bayern bosses for crunch talks over the star goalkeeper’s future.
A week on, a new contract for Neuer is no closer. Amid interest from Chelsea and with the clock ticking on his current deal, Neuer and Kroth are digging their heels in.
Manuel Neuer currently looks as far away as ever from signing a new deal at Bayern Munich
The 34-year-old sweeper-keeper has never been scared to go out on a limb, and his current demands have raised a few eyebrows in Munich. Bayern have reportedly offered him a two-year extension, but Neuer is insisting on no less than five years – a deal which would keep him at the club until the age of 39.
As power plays go, it is a relatively bold one. Neuer has been on the defensive ever since Bayern snapped up Schalke shot-stopper Alex Nubel earlier this season, with a view to easing him into Neuer’s No 1 jersey over a few years. The Germany captain has now exploded that plan with a clear message to the Bayern board; either you want me or you don’t.
If they don’t, Neuer would probably leave on a free transfer in 2021. That would not only leave Bayern out of pocket, it could leave them without a top-class goalkeeper. For all his talent, Nubel has endured a miserable last few months, and Bayern will not want to be rushed into promoting him.
Neuer has been on the defensive ever since Bayern signed Alexander Nubel from Schalke
‘(Nubel) is a highly talented goalkeeper who now has the chance to develop and learn behind Manuel Neuer,’ said Bayern’s CEO-in-waiting Oliver Kahn recently. He is not, in the words of Boris Johnson, an oven-ready solution.
Yet Neuer has no interest in training his successor. He has built a sparkling career on single-minded ambition and deadpan arrogance, and he is not about to change his tune now.
Kahn, who ended his own Bayern career at the age of 39 in 2008, was no different. Neither was 1970s stopper Sepp Maier, who has urged the club to acquiesce to Neuer’s demands.
Oliver Kahn has backed Nubel to learn from Neuer and eventuallly take his place at Bayern
Others have been less charitable. In his rarely equivocal Sky column, former Munich captain Lothar Matthaus snootily reminded Neuer that ‘gratitude and appreciation are not one-way streets’.
‘To stubbornly demand the sort of contract which almost nobody gets anymore would be cheeky,’ he wrote.
Neuer, though, can afford to be cheeky. He and Kroth hold plenty of cards in the negotiations, and not just because of the question marks which hover over Nubel. With Neuer likely to depart on a free, plenty of major clubs would be interested. And some, like Chelsea, can offer him what Bayern increasingly cannot; an iron grip on the No 1 spot.
For the Blues, signing Neuer would be a no-brainer. Many had written him off after years of injury trouble and an apparent dip in form in 2018, but the German keeper has silenced his critics since then.
In the last year or so, he has once again hit the form of his life and proved himself to be one of the finest goalkeepers in the world. Certainly finer than current No 1 Kepa Arrizabalaga, who has struggled to live up to his huge £72million price tag.
Signing Neuer would be a no-brainer for Chelsea, whose No 1 Kepa Arrizabalaga has struggled
‘Neuer could be even better at 39 than he is now. And even if not, he will be at least as good as he is now, which is better than most others,’ former Germany and Arsenal keeper Jens Lehmann told Bild.
Yet whether Neuer will follow Lehmann to London remains doubtful. It seems more likely that the German keeper would prefer to extend his 10-year spell at Bayern. And while the German champions are slowly bidding goodbye to the golden generation of the 2010s, some players are still indispensable.
Jens Lehmann has suggested Neuer could be even better as a goalkeeper by the age of 39
If Jerome Boateng, Javi Martinez and David Alaba follow Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben out the door in the coming months, many will proclaim the end of an era at Bayern. But in truth, the transition will continue, and era-spanning stars like Neuer and Thomas Muller will still be needed.
Muller is now reportedly close to renewing his contract after months of stalling, and Neuer will have been studying those negotiations closely.
Since losing Toni Kroos to Real Madrid in 2014, Bayern are wary of playing too much hardball with players they really want to keep.
For now, the discussions continue, but when the dust settles and the lockdown is lifted, we may find that Neuer has been granted his five years after all.
It still could be the case that Neuer could follow Thomas Muller in coming round to a new deal
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