There are four universally accepted European football heavyweights in Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich. United have Pogba, Madrid have Ronaldo, Barcelona has Messi, and Munich has Manuel Neuer.
The Bavarians boast an enviable list of quality players, but none more important than the three consecutive time IFFHS World’s Best Keeper, and current World Cup Golden Glove holder, Manuel Neuer. Robert Lewandowski might be world class, but he isn’t the best striker in the world, Xabi Alonso oozes quality, but he isn’t the best holding midfielder in the world.
In Neuer, Bayern Munich has a player who is universally accepted as the best in the world in his position. Last season in the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich and Manuel Neuer played 34 games and conceded only 16 goals. It’s hard to argue against the importance of a man who helps his team keep 20 clean sheets in 34 games.
Neuer’s overwhelming quality is one of the key reasons why Bayern have been so successful in the past five or so years. He is so well rounded and provides his team with balance which allows room to experiment with different tactical approaches. For instance, Bayern can adopt a high line because Manuel Neuer is the best sweeper-keeper in the world.
They can also drop deep and allow shots from a distance because he’s one of the best shot-stoppers around. Manuel Neuer played a phenomenal role in a lot of Bayern’s recent successes, and as such his value to the German giants is impossible to overestimate.
Neuer’s ability to keep Bayern Munich on the front foot is also massively understated. Last season in the Bundesliga, he attempted a total of 879 passes and completed 80% of them (stats courtesy of Squawka).
A keeper who is capable of distributing with such quality makes it difficult for the opposition to press, as marking both the goalkeeper, two centre backs, and both holding midfielders will require committing too many players.
This reason alone might lead many teams to sit back against FC Bayern. It is incredibly rare for a goalkeeper to have the long-range passing ability of a defender, yet Neuer’s can even match that of many midfield players.
As well as all of these impressive traits, Bayern’s number one is also fantastic at facing penalties. It is popular belief that penalty kicks are a game of luck, yet that luck tends to tilt towards the towering 6 foot 4 inches Die Mannschaft goalkeeper more often than not.
Manuel Neuer’s penalty saving heroics helped Bayern on the way to the 2012 Champions League final for example, where he saved from the highly regarded duo of Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo when facing Real Madrid.
He also helped Germany get to the semi-finals of the recently concluded European Championships of 2016, saving from Leonardo Bonucci and Matteo Darmian. Since joining FC Bayern, he has saved penalties during regular time against the likes of Fernando Torres, Mesut Ozil and Robert Lewandowski.
There is no denying the fact that Bayern Munich has a bunch of quality players as Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben or Jerome Boateng and in the case of injury to any of them, the likes of Thomas Muller, Douglas Costa and Javi Martinez are there to fill their shoes without making any compromise on quality.
However, if Manuel Neuer is injured for any substantial period, it will likely have a telling effect on FC Bayern’s campaign in both the Bundesliga and the UEFA Champions League.