Despite having recently been voted as the world's best goalkeeper for a third consecutive year, FC Bayern München and Germany No1 Manuel Neuer is intent on securing a few more accolades by the end of the 2015/16 season.
Now back from the record titleholders’ winter training camp in Doha, Qatar, the Bundesliga’s safest pair of hands shared his thoughts on the second half of the season, Pep Guardiola’s imminent departure and a 15-year-old goalkeeping prodigy who has caught his eye during the winter break.
bundesliga.com: FC Bayern boast a healthy lead at the top of the table and are expected to defend the title in impressive fashion once again. Is there a greater focus on winning the UEFA Champions League among the squad as a result?
Manuel Neuer: Not from my perspective. We know that everything can change really quickly. If we don’t start well, then we’ll have problems. We can’t feel too safe, especially as the Bundesliga and the DFB Cup are two very important competitions. In the Champions League we’ve got a very tough tie ahead of us in the form of Juventus, but Juve also know us and won’t be overly pleased to have drawn FC Bayern as an opponent. In a game like that it’ll come down to who’s in better form on the day. The important thing for us is to avoid losing any other players to injury because we had enough absentees during the first half of the season. We still coped well with the situation and are on target in all competitions. We are, however, really looking forward to those special encounters in the Champions League.
bundesliga.com: Head coach Pep Guardiola has confirmed that he will be leaving Bayern in the summer. Will the second half of the season nevertheless be as successful as the rest of his time at the club?
Neuer: That’s what I would wish for him and all of us. Of course you can’t guarantee that, but we will give everything to have another successful six months. We won’t train or play any differently than we would if he'd decided to stay.
bundesliga.com: You personally were voted as the world’s best goalkeeper for a third time. How proud are you of that achievement?
Neuer: I’m incredibly proud and very happy. I feel honoured that it has happened for a third time. I can only thank all my team-mates, not just at FC Bayern, but also in the national team set-up. And of course those who have supported me and taught me everything I know. Thank you!
bundesliga.com: FC Bayern’s dominant style of play can be problematic for you given that, in certain games, you only have one or two shots to take care of, but have to keep out. How do you prepare for that?
Neuer: You can’t have a special training regime for that. The most important thing is that you need to have a reasonable basic stamina that allows you to maintain your concentration levels over the course of 90 minutes. Games in which the first potentially decisive shot on goal comes in the 70th minute aren’t easy. You’ve got to be ready and be alert. Oliver Kahn often demonstrated those qualities in the past. You can certainly learn a lot from his performances.
bundesliga.com: In Christian Früchtl, Bayern took a 15-year-old goalkeeping prodigy to the winter training camp in Qatar as part of the Bundesliga World Tour, where he trained with the first-team. He is already almost two metres tall and has very big feet…
Neuer: (Laughs) …shoe size 48 2/3 [14UK/14.5US]! I checked. I can’t even lend him my shoes. I think I was one and a half heads shorter than he is when I was 15.
bundesliga.com: Has he been watching you particularly closely during training?
Neuer: That’s normal. I did that back in the day when I was younger too. You have to watch the older, more experienced keepers who have already made it as professionals, but I’m also not the only one here for him to observe. In Tom Starke and Sven Ulreich we’ve got two very strong goalkeepers in our team. He can learn any number of things from watching any one of us closely. Christian is training well and is very hungry, attentive and listens well when you have to explain something to him.
bundesliga.com: What’s his biggest strength?
Neuer: (Laughs) His size! Of course it’s not just that though. Lots of young goalkeepers don’t have a good leap, they can’t really push off properly when they jump. For someone of his age he’s a lot further ahead in that respect, not many 15 year olds can push off like him. He’s also got a great sense of coordination despite his height and big feet. That’s difficult to learn. The talent is definitely there with him, he’s got great potential. But he can’t begin dreaming too big because you just never know where the road will take you. He knows though, that he has to keep working on himself, because he sees that us older, more experienced keepers always want to work on ourselves even now.