Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer says he has “rarely been happier” after making his long-awaited return to action on Matchday 9, following 10 months on the sidelines recovering from a broken leg.
The 37-year-old had been on the sidelines since fracturing the tibia and fibula in his right leg whilst skiing during the winter break last year. However, he was back between the posts on Saturday as Bayern cruised to an 8-0 victory over Darmstadt at the Allianz Arena, 350 days after his last top-flight outing.
And he picked up right where he left off – with a clean sheet, in typically imperious style. Neuer saved all four shots at his goal, including one superb stop to keep out Marvin Mehlem in a one-on-one in the 36th minute with the score still 0-0.
Watch: Highlights of Bayern's win over Darmstadt (not available in DACH countries until 00:01 on Oct 31)
Unsurprisingly, the Germany No.1 was all smiles at the final whistle as he gave his analysis to bundesliga.com: “It was my first game back today and I’m very happy about that. I need to build everything up and I can only do that by playing games. First and foremost, I’m just happy to be with the team and to have played my first game today, which went very well.”
That did not always look like being the case for Bayern as a collective, though, especially after Joshua Kimmich’s sending off in the fourth minute.
Thomas Tuchel’s side subsequently struggled against a battling Darmstadt outfit, but once Harry Kane broke the deadlock early in the second half, the floodgates well and truly opened.
Watch: Neuer happy after making comeback
“I was positively excited and in some anticipation of what was going to happen out there,” Neuer told the Bayern website afterwards. “I was just really excited to be back at the Allianz Arena, to play in front of my own fans and to be on the pitch with the team.
“There were definitely ups and downs, but I always had the will to return. I'm still very ambitious and I managed to do that with a lot of experts, doctors, fitness coaches and coaches, and I'm very grateful to them. I’m someone who loves to train. The other thing was the mental aspect, whether it would work out again. I always believed in it. I've rarely been happier than this, to have finally made it and that so many who accompanied me were in the stadium today."
Neuer’s return is a timely one for Bayern, who will rely on his vast experience and big-game know-how in their Klassiker trip to Borussia Dortmund next Saturday – even more so with Kimmich suspended for the fixture.
Just three points separate the top five teams in the Bundesliga at present, so the match is an opportunity for Bayern to lay down a marker against their perennial title rivals. Needless to say, Neuer is already relishing the prospect of playing his part in that.
Watch: Neuer looking forward to Matchday 10 Klassiker in Dortmund
“We’re playing in Dortmund, so it’s obviously one of the most important games for us players and for our fans,” Neuer said.
"I think the international football community will be watching the game and I want to go into it at peak fitness.”
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