Pep Guardiola genuinely attempted to play Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer in midfield in a Bundesliga match, according to Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
Guardiola, 49, presided over three years at the Allianz Arena between 2013 and 2016, during which time he won three consecutive Bundesliga titles. Neuer played a key part of those successes between the sticks, though it is being claimed Guardiola felt he could be influential elsewhere.
Why would Pep try to play Neuer outfield? Five things to know…
- Neuer initially signed up to Schalke’s youth academy (at a very young age) as a striker.
- In 2011, he eventually left Schalke for Bayern, where he was Guardiola’s first-choice goalkeeper between 2013 and 2016.
- The Germany international is renowned for his ball-playing ability, composure in possession and distribution; he has averaged 25.6 successful passes per 90 minutes in the Champions League since the start of the 2016/17 season.
- Neuer is also considered modern football’s archetypal ‘sweeper-keeper’, willing to venture outside his box.
- The most famous example of this notion came during Germany’s 2-1 win over Algeria at the 2014 World Cup (heatmap below), which they ultimately won.
During the Catalonian’s Bayern reign the German powerhouse added seven pieces of silverware to the club’s esteemed trophy cabinet, including a Club World Cup.
The current City boss had a trove of goalscoring talent on his hands at Bayern, including Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller, but arguably the fulcrum of his system was Neuer.
The acquisition of Ederson at the Etihad has shown just how important a ball-playing goalkeeper is to Guardiola’s idea of build-up. But in Neuer, he had one of the game’s greatest ever sweeper keepers.
Such is the 33-year-old’s unwavering assuredness with the ball at his feet, and innate close control, that Guardiola was genuinely considering fielding his gloveman in midfield for a Bundesliga game.
“Manuel invented the art of being a footballer as a goalkeeper and revolutionised this position,” Rummenigge told Bayern’s official magazine 51.
“I still remember how Pep Guardiola, after winning a championship, seriously came up with the idea of putting him in midfield for a game.”
He went on to suggest that he would’ve “found it difficult to dissuade Pep from this idea, which some of us felt might be interpreted as arrogance.
“But I am convinced that Manu would have done well in midfield, too.”
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Guardiola isn’t the only coach who feels Neuer can play midfield…
This is not the first time those close to Neuer have waxed lyrical about his ability to play further up the pitch.
In 2014, Germany boss Joachim Low made the claim that his No. 1 shot-stopper was so good from a technical standpoint that he could seamlessly slot into his midfield.
He said: “Manuel Neuer has the same technical skills as the others, he could play in the midfield, he also has great awareness and that’s why we are happy for him to take these risks, and that’s why he’s so valuable.
“He can basically be a player behind the defence.”
After years of struggling with injury problems following Guardiola’s departure, Neuer has re-established his position as Bayern’s first-choice ‘keeper, and his performances will go a long way to helping his side clinch an eighth successive Bundesliga title.
This is one of the closest title races in recent Bundesliga memory with just three points separating first from fourth, but Bayern currently lead the charge and are 4/9* favourites to bring up a record 30 German top-flight triumphs with William Hill.
*18+ only and BeGambleAware.