If anyone has reinforced the image of a flying goalkeeper in his career, it is the German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. Flying tackles over the halfway line. Slidings along the sideline, where the defender gets another pushed aside, shoulder by shoulder. Chopping the ball, behind the standing leg sometimes, headers, a subtle lift over the oncoming striker and even a throw-in, Neuer has it all in his arsenal. Even when things go wrong, he stays cool and picks the ball out of the goal with a tense mouth. Playing the ball with the heal of his shoe, outside his own penalty area in 2014 against Frankfurt, is maybe the pinnacle of Neurer’s South German class, mixed with a bit of arrogance.
Manuel Neuer loves to chase out of his goal, says his first youth coach Siggi Hüneborn in a profile of the German keeper that appeared in the the Dutch Daily NRC in 2016. Coming out far from is goal is Neuer’s trademark. ‘He not only plays football, but also defends’ according to Hüneborn.
When his team was leading 2-0 at halftime, Neuer asked his trainer if he could come forward. Hüneborn: ‘At the end of the season I sometimes allowed that, he would stand there in midfield with his goalkeeper gloves on. In his role as a field player, Neuer goes even further than his Dutch example Edwin van der Sar. The Dutchman also made it his trademark to join his team in the field. However, Van der Sar never defended as emphatically as the German keeper.
According to Schulze-Marmeling, author of Neuer’s biography Der Welttorhüter, the transition from the traditional reaction goalkeeper to football anticipation goalkeeper has been slow in Germany. It wasn’t until the 2006 World Championship in his own country that national coach Jürgen Klinsmann and his then assistant Joachim Löw made the decision to replace Oliver Kahn, the reaction keeper par excellence, and opt for Jens Lehmann. He was already 36, but as an Arsenal goalkeeper, he was used to choose elegant solutions with the ball at his feet. The choice for a keeper of the Lehmann type eventually cleared the way for Neuer who had made it into the first team at Schalke.