Munich - Being the best in the business draws plenty of attention, and Manuel Neuer knows all about that.
Voted the best goalkeeper in the world in 2014, and making the three-man shortlist for the best player on the planet, it is hardly surprising the FC Bayern München and Germany undisputed number one has plenty of eyes on him.
In an interview with Germany's Die Welt newspaper, the 29-year-old revealed how he deals with the attention, and how every goal conceded is one too many. Like the first against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 26. "Believe me, I could have done without it," he said. "Obviously, you're only human if you make a mistake, but something like that still annoys me."
It is not a common sight to see Neuer so flustered, which in itself evidences his meticulous nature. Even he admits it is surprising he has not been left with egg on his face more often, but he still enjoys everything about his pioneering role as the modern sweeper-keeper. "It's part of my game to take risks," he said. "Maybe I do look stupid at times if I lose the ball, but I make up for it with a lot of saves."
Thinking outside the box
"I wouldn't be the goalkeeper I am now if that didn’t happen to me from time to time." It would arguably happen to him more often if he didn't have such a strong back line in front of him, both for club and country, although perhaps he also deserves more credit for his apparent impregnability. "Only the spectacular saves get shown on TV, but there's more to my game than that," he said. "I organise the game from the back, get involved and anticipate situations."
That is why a heat map of Neuer's contribution to many Bundesliga games sees him spending as much time outside his own 18-yard box as in it. "It's the way I've always played," he said. "It's not as if I've reinvented goalkeeping. Nowadays, we don't play with ten outfield players and a goalkeeper, but with 11 players, one of whom is allowed to use his hands."
Neuer is the one with the gloves on and he packs a punch too, at least in his professional pursuit. "I'm a perfectionist as a goalkeeper because I want to resolve every situation perfectly, whether in training or in games," he said. "Even playing cards, I want to have the best hand. Things might sometimes be a bit of a mess on my sofa at home, but that doesn't matter to me."
The is one who can certainly keep his house in order on the field, though, but while much of his game sticks in the memory for spectacular saves and breakneck forays out of his designated area, he is surprisingly proud of one particular game in his career that "probably doesn't stand out to anybody else." He explained: "It was a 0-0 against SC Freiburg in 2012.
"We'd beaten them 7-0 in the reverse fixture so it wasn't fantastic in terms of the result, but it was an almost perfect game for me as a goalkeeper. The spectacular saves are not always the most difficult, but keeping the ball and launching attacks, dominating your penalty area - that's important. If you do that, you can be happy." Like Neuer, week in, week out.