On December 9, when the football world was looking to Qatar for the quarter-finals of the 2022 World Cup, Manuel Neuer, 36, was in the Bavarian Alps.

Germany has been eliminated for more than a week and the captain of Mannschaft and Bayern clears his mind on skis.

On a bad fall, the world champion is seriously injured.

In a press release, Bayern and the player evoke a "fracture of the lower part of the right leg".

A few weeks later, some German newspapers mentioned a double open tibia and fibula fracture.

Manuel Neuer will celebrate his 37th birthday at the end of March and the rehabilitation period promises to be long for the man who was the benchmark for his position in the 2010s, double winner of the Champions League with Bayern (2013 and 2020) and 2014 world champion.

The goalkeeper's entourage told German daily Bild earlier this week that the healing process is taking its course and the plan is for Neuer to be available on the first day of preparations for the next season.

When he returns to Bayern training, however, things will have changed quite a bit on the side of Säbener Strasse, the Munich base camp in the south of the Bavarian capital.

Manuel Neuer in the Bayern Munich jersey during the trip to Hertha Berlin, November 5, 2022 © Ronny HARTMANN / AFP/Archives

Competition from Sommer, ter Stegen and Trapp

Arrived in Munich from Schalke in the summer of 2011, Neuer has always been the undisputed No.1 in goal for Bayern and Mannschaft, even when his body began to show signs of fatigue.

This time, Bayern did not have much choice and recruited a world-class goalkeeper in the person of Yann Sommer (34), 80 caps with the Swiss national team and who signed a contract for two and a half seasons. until the summer of 2025, when Neuer's Munich lease ends, for now, a season earlier.

The Swiss Yann Sommer, new goalkeeper of Bayern Munich during the reception of Eintracht Frankfurt, January 28, 2023 © CHRISTOF STACHE / AFP/Archives

"Manuel is a world-class goalkeeper, whom we must now give all the necessary time and rest, until he gets back to form," said Bayern chairman Oliver Kahn.

Moreover, Neuer saw Bayern goalkeeping coach Toni Tapalovic, his closest friend in the Munich coaching staff, fired with immediate effect just over a week ago.

Enough to reinforce the idea of ​​a real competition to come between Sommer and Neuer in the summer for the position of N.1.

And in the national team, coach Hansi Flick has two first-choice solutions with Marc-André ter Stegen, FC Barcelona holder, and Kevin Trapp, who has been enjoying Frankfurt since 2018 after a stint at Paris SG.

Anyway, the end of Manuel Neuer's career is slowly approaching, he who has set himself the goal of keeping Mannschaft goals one last time in the summer of 2024 for the Euro at home.

Manuel Neuer (seated) with Marc-André Ter Stegen, his understudy in the Germany team, in Al-Shamal, near Doha, November 22, 2022 © INA FASSBENDER / AFP/Archives

For almost a decade and a half, Neuer revolutionized the goalkeeper position, not hesitating to venture beyond his surface to play with the foot or sometimes with the head, in a role of libero bis.

And his saves against attackers, knee bent to the ground like a hockey goalie, inspired more than one.

"For ten years, it's been the best, the most complete, it's not by chance", praised the 1998 world and 2000 European champion Fabien Barthez, in an interview with L'Equipe in April 2022 .

© 2023 AFP