Tuesday 12 May 2015 22:48, UK
Manuel Neuer has been called the best goalkeeper of all time. We look at the cases for and against...
Bayern Munich may have lost the first leg of their Champions League semi-final to Barcelona – but it could have been a lot worse for Pep Guardiola’s men had Manuel Neuer not pulled off several fine first-half saves at the Nou Camp.
The German shot-stopper kept out one-on-one attempts from Luis Suarez and Dani Alves and, at half-time, Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp described him as the best goalkeeper of all time.
“Some say the best in the world, I think actually he’s the best goalkeeper ever,” Redknapp said.
“He has taken goalkeeping to a whole new level. Not just with the saves he makes but also how he plays on the ball. He’s technically so good in every area.”
Here we look at five reasons why Neuer IS the best ‘keeper ever - and five reasons why he ISN’T…
Five reasons why Neuer IS the best ‘keeper ever
Few players can boast a trophy cabinet as packed full as Manuel Neuer’s. The Germany goalkeeper played a key role as his country won the World Cup last summer – conceding just four times in seven games – having previously helped the U21 side to a European Championship in 2009.
At club level, Neuer has accumulated three Bundesliga winners’ medals, lifted the German Cup three times, and won the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup.
Of course, being part of supreme Bayern Munich and Germany teams helps, but Neuer’s ability has also been recognised with individual awards; the 29-year-old became the first goalkeeper in nearly a decade to be shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or, won the Golden Glove at the World Cup and has twice been crowned Footballer of the Year in Germany.
“I’ve never seen a better sweeper, apart from maybe Franz Beckenbauer,” Germany’s goalkeeping coach has said of Neuer.
In the World Cup clash with Algeria, Neuer’s ability to race from his box, read the play and act as an extra defender for Germany showed a new way for a goalkeeper to play. His post-match heat-map demonstrated how he had spent much of his time outside of the penalty area, approaching the halfway line, ready to pounce on loose balls and over-hit passes from the opposition, while at the same time eager to join in with the play of his team-mates.
In the first leg of Bayern Munich’s Champions League tie with Barcelona at the Nou Camp Luis Suarez saw first-hand how effective Neuer can be – the German beat the Uruguayan striker to a bouncing through ball and cleared the danger with a diving header.
Neuer’s remarkable reaction times were clear for all to see in the quarter-finals of the Champions League against Porto. Despite Jerome Boateng unexpectedly diverting Danilo’s powerfully hit cross goalwards from close range, Neuer was still somehow able to flash out a hand and deflect the ball over the bar to safety.
“He has great reflexes,” says Germany goalkeeping great Sepp Maier.
“Neuer has the same technical skills as the others, he could play in the midfield. He can basically be a player behind the defence,” said Germany boss Joachim Loew.
The stats back up Loew’s confidence in Neuer’s footballing skills – he has completed more passes than any other goalkeeper in the Champions League this season, with his total of 315 far beyond second-placed Marc-Andre ter Stegen of Barcelona (242).
With a pass completion rate of 91 per cent, Neuer is a man to be trusted when he has the ball at his feet.
As you’d expect from a 6ft 4in goalkeeper who thoroughly prepares and researches his opponents and has stunning reflexes, Neuer is pretty handy when it comes to saving penalties.
The ‘keeper helped Bayern Munich to the Champions League final in 2012 with two superb stops against Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka in the shootout with Real Madrid. He even blocked Juan Mata’s effort in the final, although Didier Drogba eventually had the last say for Chelsea.
Neuer got his revenge against the Blues in the 2013 UEFA Super Cup, saving the final penalty to clinch the title, and denied Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil in the Champions League the following season.
He’s a keen penalty taker, too, scoring against Real Madrid in that semi-final – although he did recently miss in a shootout defeat to Borussia Dortmund.
Five reasons why Neuer ISN’T the best ‘keeper ever
The only ‘keeper ever to win the Ballon d’Or, Lev Yashin – or the ‘Black Spider’ as he was known – was famous for his outstanding reflexes. A one-club man, Yashin kept goal for Dynamo Moscow for two decades, winning 78 caps for the Soviet Union. An Olympic champion in 1956, Yashin also represented his country at three World Cups.
A modern great, Iker Casillas may be struggling for top form right now but his status as a Real Madrid legend is not in doubt. Since making his debut as a 16-year-old, Casillas has gone on to win five league titles, three Champions Leagues, two Copa del Reys and a Club World Cup with Real. Not to mention captaining Spain to World Cup glory and two European Championships.
The world’s most expensive goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon was shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or after helping Italy win the 2006 World Cup and has won 147 caps for his country. The 37-year-old is approaching 600 league appearances at club level, too, having become a Juventus icon since his big-money move from Parma.
The Italian legend Dino Zoff captained his country to World Cup success in 1982 – aged 40. Zoff holds the record for the most minutes in international football without conceding a goal after going 1,142 minutes between 1972 and 1974 without having to retrieve the ball from his net. A six-time winner of Serie A with Juventus, Zoff also lifted the Coppa Italia twice, and twice finished runner-up in the European Cup.
Manchester United hero Peter Schmeichel is one of the most iconic goalkeepers of the modern era, having captained the Old Trafford outfit to one of the most famous Champions League triumphs in the tournament’s history. The Dane also won five league titles under Sir Alex Ferguson and, perhaps even more impressively, helped Denmark stun the world of football by winning Euro 92.
Watch highlights of Bayern Munich v Barcelona on Sky Sports 5 HD from 11pm on Tuesday