Manuel Neuer is the present at Bayern Munich, but he comes up against his potential successor in VfB Stuttgart's Alexander Nübel. - © DFL
Manuel Neuer is the present at Bayern Munich, but he comes up against his potential successor in VfB Stuttgart's Alexander Nübel. - © DFL

Apprentice Alexander Nübel faces Master Manuel Neuer as VfB Stuttgart host Bayern Munich


The master takes on the apprentice this weekend as Manuel Neuer’s Bayern Munich travel to Alexander Nübel's VfB Stuttgart. The 38-year-old Germany legend is one day expected to be replaced by the latter, who is on loan from Bayern. But is the 27-year-old a worthy successor? compares their form this term to try and find an answer...

In 2011, Bayern raided Schalke for their up-and-coming star goalkeeper Neuer, and the rest is history. After 11 league titles, two UEFA Champions League trophies and more clean sheets than any other shot-stopper in both the German top flight and Europe’s premier club competition, his CV speaks for itself.

With one eye on the future, Bayern returned to Gelsenkirchen in 2020 to pick up Nübel on a free transfer, and given Neuer was already well into his 30s, it seemed a changing of the guard between the sticks was imminent. However, the elder statesmen was in no mood to give the upstart his spot, and after just four appearances in all competitions during the 2020/21 campaign, Nübel joined Monaco on loan as he went in search of first-team experience.

The youngster started every single Ligue 1 match across his two seasons in the principality, but it is his form at Stuttgart that has seen him stake a claim for Neuer’s position once more. Bayern still clearly in believe him, too, recently kitting him out with a new contract that runs out in 2029. While Nübel will remain on loan in Baden-Württemberg until the end of the 2025/26 campaign, there is still plenty of time for him to impose himself at the Allianz Arena, and even Mr. Longevity himself will have to hang up his gloves at some point.

This term, Nübel has shown maturity and consistency. Only Bayer Leverkusen’s Lukáš Hrádecký (14) has more clean sheets than Nübel’s nine, even though seven other goalkeepers have made more than his 27 appearances. In contrast, Neuer has six, albeit having played seven fewer games due to injuries. There is nothing to separate the two in terms of goals conceded per game, with both shipping 1.3.

With both of their teams currently in the top three, the two Germans are not peppered by shots and instead spend large portions of games watching attacks at the opposite end of the pitch. As a result, neither rank particularly well in the Bundesliga in terms of save percentage – Nübel is slightly ahead with 66 percent to Neuer’s 65.8 percent.

Instead, the latter has built a reputation as one of the best ball-playing goalkeepers in world football, having perfected the sweeper-keeper role earlier in his career. He is not quite as adventurous nowadays, but remains comfortable in possession, landing 86.7 percent of his attempted passes. For a side which controls territory and the ball for large portions of fixtures, his composure is crucial.

Watch: Nübel's best saves

Sebastian Hoeneß’s Stuttgart, meanwhile, adopt a similar style, and Nübel has also displayed the attributes of a modern custodian. There has been a significant improvement in his passing since 2019/20, his last term at Schalke. He has completed 81.8 percent of his passes compared to 73.1 percent five years ago. The duo are neck-and-neck at 32.3 in terms of the number of passes which find a teammate per match, while Nübel is out in front in regards to touches with 46.6 against 42.

There is barely any difference between Neuer’s five throws per match and his potential replacement’s 4.4, and the two stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a number of other departments. Quite frankly, Nübel is similar in numerous ways, even matching Neuer’s 6’3” in frame.

What he does lack, though, is experience. Few goalkeepers have had an impact as great as Neuer, the current club captain at Bayern, despite his many fantastic predecessors. Nübel, meanwhile, is in just his third Bundesliga campaign as he slowly approaches 30 years of age, and has just four Champions League outings to his name.

Watch: The best of sweeper-keeper Neuer

Whether he can match Neuer’s leadership and reliability remains a question mark. He has gone a long way to showing he can be a key part of a successful outfit, but a slew of mistakes during the second half of Schalke’s 2019/20 relegation season – by which time he had already committed his future to Bayern - are not easily forgotten, especially under the intense Bavarian spotlight.

Nübel, though, will surely get his chance after Bayern say goodbye to a hero, and he has a fantastic opportunity to show his employers what they are missing right now at the MHPArena in Matchday 32’s standout match-up. It is up to him whether he takes it.