Manuel Neuer and Marco Reus (l-r.) are the figureheads for Germany’s two biggest teams in Der Klassiker. - © /
Manuel Neuer and Marco Reus (l-r.) are the figureheads for Germany’s two biggest teams in Der Klassiker. - © /
bundesliga

Klassiker captains: Manuel Neuer vs. Marco Reus

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They’re international teammates for Germany, but Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund captains Manuel Neuer and Marco Reus are arch-rivals in Germany’s biggest club fixture - Der Klassiker.

A goalkeeper against a goalscorer. Gelsenkirchen-born former Schalke man Neuer up against Dortmund born and bred Reus. They are about as opposite as you get in football and have come up against each other 30 times across competitions, including 23 encounters in Der Klassiker for the clubs of which they are currently the faces.

Neuer will go down in history as perhaps the greatest goalkeeper to ever grace the game, redefining what it means to play in goal. His presence alone is sometimes enough to put off opposition players, while his position in the Bayern changing room saw him take on the armband after Philipp Lahm retired in 2017.

There has long been respect in the rivalry between Manuel Neuer (l.) and Marco Reus (2nd r.). - Lukas Schulze/Bundesliga/DFL via Getty Images

Reus has long been a figure of identification for the BVB faithful, who have always stood by him despite a string of injuries since re-joining his boyhood club in 2012. Even then, he was named club captain for the 2018/19 campaign and would go on to be voted Germany’s Footballer of the Year that season.

That campaign was the first where the pair both led their teams out in Der Klassiker, and it turned into the Reus Show. He bagged a brace at Signal Iduna Park to twice level after a certain Robert Lewandowski had put Bayern ahead on two occasions, before Paco Alcacer snatched a winner for the hosts.

Watch: Reus’s brace in 3-2 Klassiker victory

Rather disappointingly (for Reus and Dortmund in general), that was only his second Klassiker victory in the Bundesliga from now 14 appearances – and in fact BVB’s most recent league victory over the record champions.

He also played a starring role in his other win, back in April 2014, setting up Henrikh Mkhitaryan for the opener before scoring the second in a 3-0 triumph in Munich. That was the last time Borussia even took a point back home from the Allianz Arena.

Watch: Reus’s first Klassiker goal back in 2013/14

He also provided the assist for Mario Götze to earn a draw back in his first Klassiker in December 2012.

Those results evidence just how crucial Reus is to Dortmund’s efforts against Bayern. They have won only one other Klassiker in the league (without Reus) since he made his debut in 2012/13. The other two victories have come when the local hero has stepped up and shone.

His five Bundesliga goals against Bayern for BVB sees him trail only Lothar Emmerich (eight) and Manfred Burgsmüller (seven) in the club’s internal standings, while three of those have come in the five games where he has led the team out.

Coach Marco Rose said at the start of this season that Reus has been a “model captain” from the moment he took over, and it’s fitting that the skipper so often leads from the front up against his opposite number. No Bundesliga player has scored more goals against Neuer than Reus (eight). Three of them came in his Borussia Mönchengladbach days, and two of those were when Neuer still played for Schalke, but Reus has shown little of the fear that other opponents clearly have up against the Bayern custodian.

Yet Neuer has been a constant thorn in Dortmund’s side. He has 23 wins in 39 career appearances against his boyhood arch-rivals, while it’s 18 in 30 in Bayern colours. In the Bundesliga alone, he’s been victorious in 10 out of 18 Klassikers, keeping six clean sheets in the process and only conceding 18.

That rate of one per match is actually above his Bundesliga career average of 0.82 goals per game, but the Bayern skipper has produced unbelievable heroics to keep that value so low in Germany’s highest-quality fixture.

One recent example came in the 2020 Supercup with the clinical Erling Haaland bearing down on goal at speed, only got Neuer to stick out an arm to leave the BVB man with his head in his hands.

“Most goalkeepers wouldn’t have saved it, but Manuel Neuer managed to. He stayed up. Ninety-seven per cent of goalkeepers go down and I score,” the frustrated Norwegian said after the game.

And, of course, there was the direct encounter with Reus in 2015 when the Bayern man produced a remarkable save from a free-kick with three minutes to go and the score at just 1-0 at the Signal Iduna Park.

Neuer has been hailed “an outstanding captain” by coach Julian Nagelsmann, skippering the Bavarian juggernaut through perhaps its most successful era ever, with the 2020 sextuple and now the possibility of a historic 10th straight Bundesliga title this season.

The 36-year-old has this season taken the league record for most wins and clean sheets off predecessor Oliver Kahn – one of the men who helped ignite the on-field rivalry between Bayern and Dortmund.

How fitting would it be now if a Neuer save from Reus were to earn him victory once again and see the captain lift the Meisterschale as a result in Der Klassiker?