Bayern Munich and Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has revealed that the recurring metatarsal injury that kept him out of action for almost nine months could have ended his career.
Neuer, 32, first broke a bone in his foot during Bayern's UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg defeat to Real Madrid in April 2017. He returned to action on Matchday 2 of the 2017/18 Bundesliga campaign, but managed just 360 minutes of competitive football before being sidelined by a second metatarsal fracture in a game against Mainz on 16 September 2017.
Neuer missed the remainder of the season as Bayern successfully defended their Bundesliga title, but lost to Eintracht Frankfurt in the DFB Cup final and went out to Real in the Champions League last four. With his participation at the FIFA 2018 World Cup hanging in the balance, he made his first-team comeback in a World Cup warm-up match against Austria on 2 June, before being given the all-clear to travel to Russia as Germany's No.1.
Neuer has since played in eight internationals for Germany and started all 26 of Bayern's competitive outings during the first half of the 2018/19 season, without experiencing any adverse effects of undergoing two surgeries in the space of six months.
"I can do everything again, nothing hurts any more," he told Süddeutsche Zeitung. "I'm really grateful to be playing again and fully fit. If I'd have suffered another setback before the World Cup, my career could have been over."
'I want to be the best again'
Widely regarded as the greatest goalkeeper ever to have played the game, Neuer says his desire to be the best remains as strong as ever. Statistically, he hasn't been the standout custodian in the Bundesliga so far this season with a 50 per cent shots saved average, but he has still conceded just 18 Bundesliga goals - a best-mark shared with Borussia Mönchengladbach's Yann Sommer and RB Leipzig's Peter Gulacsi - and kept six clean sheets.
"I've read all about the statistics, but it's the things that I see and others don't that are important," the four-time IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper explained. "I'm feeling good and I'm no way done yet. I still have the hunger and the need to play at the highest level and win titles. I want to be the best in all areas of my game again."