Austrian goalkeeper Alex Manninger is enjoying a rebirth at Augsburg after joining the club as a free agent in November
Austrian goalkeeper Alex Manninger is enjoying a rebirth at Augsburg after joining the club as a free agent in November

Manninger making up for lost time

Augsburg - With five points from three games, FC Augsburg are one of the Bundesliga clubs to whom the New Year has been kindest. The Bavarians are unbeaten in 2013 and have given themselves a fighting chance of avoiding the drop for the second season in a row.

Shrewd addition

2013 has also been kind to a certain The veteran goalkeeper hasn’t missed a minute of Bundesliga action since the turn of the year, a run in the team that has put five more points on the board and reminded the rest of the league just what a reliable goalkeeper the Austrian still is.

Despite having and , Augsburg head coach Markus Weinzierl decided to reinforce the goalkeeping department when he signed Manninger on a free transfer in November. The Salzburg native acted as back-up for Amsif until the winter break, but then benefitted from an injury to the Moroccan and has been in the team ever since the Bundesliga resumed on 18 January.

After helping secure three points in Düsseldorf, his first league action since a Serie A fixture for Italian side Udinese Calcio in April 2010, Manninger then kept a clean sheet at home to FC Schalke 04, before helping his side to a 1-1 draw away at VfL Wolfsburg. “Without Manninger we would have won the game”, said Wolves midfielder Diego after the game. Weinzierl, too, was quick to big up his November acquisition: “Alex got us that point.”

Experience in abundance

Now a relative 'old head' at the age of 35, his early promise was identified by legendary coach Arsene Wenger, who signed him for Arsenal FC as back-up for then No1 keeper, former England international David Seaman in the summer of 1997. Since that time he has been used sparingly for the many clubs he has played for, a possible reason why he only made 38 appearances for the Austrian national team between 1999 and 2009.

Yet he still has plenty to offer. In a professional career that began 17 and a half years ago with SV Austria Salzburg, he has gone on to represent no less than eleven clubs in four countries, winning a domestic double with Arsenal in 1997/98 and the Serie A title with Juventus in 2012. He left the Turin outfit last summer and was without a club for four months before being picked up by Augsburg, whom he chose over a number of clubs, including English side Everton FC.

Model professional

The competition for the goalkeeping position is evidently fierce at Augsburg. Jentzsch has been the club’s recognised first-choice keeper for the past three seasons and has played over 270 matches in the German top flight, while Amsif has also featured on twelve occasions in the league this term.

One part selection headache, another part luxury - whoever Weinzierl puts his faith in on any given Matchday, the modest Manninger will have no qualms with his coach's decision: “I’m just a part of a team.”

Bernie Reeves