“I can take World Cup strain” – Bayern Munich and Germany’s Manuel Neuer
However, the 32-year-old goalkeeper has been steadily working his way back to fitness, and though he failed to meet his goal of featuring for Bayern before the end of the season, he will be between the posts for his country’s title defence in Russia after backstopping his nation’s success in Brazil four years ago.
“I can’t go through everything I have felt. A fit player has good and bad times during a season, and you have that in rehab too. It was a long and tough time, but it was also good. I had a lot of fun with the coaches, the physios, and I was always very positive, and I knew I could and would do it,” the Germany captain explained at the squad announcement on Monday.
“I have always had positive thoughts in my head, and if I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have been here. I feel very good, and I’ve had very good feedback from my team-mates. They have said that they can’t see that I haven’t played so much recently. It’s been very honest feedback, and that was the most important thing for me. I’m convinced that I can take the strain of a whole tournament.”
Watch: Manuel Neuer’s dazzling top 5 saves
Neuer played his first competitive football since mid-September in Germany’s surprise 2-1 defeat to Austria last weekend, and has impressed his team-mates and national team boss Joachim Löw in the squad’s training camp in South Tirol to earn his place on the plane to Russia, fulfilling one of the two ambitions that drove him on throughout his recovery.
‘Never lost faith’
“I had a clear goal. I also had one with Bayern, but I wasn’t able to take part. It was a real shame I couldn’t play a single game under Jupp Heynckes. I would have liked that, but it didn’t work out,” said Neuer, who was named on the bench for Bayern’s shock DFB Cup defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt.
“Sven Ulreich did really well, and it was normal that he played in the cup final, he totally deserved it. Of course I always believed I could do it. My goals were very important, a priority, but I didn’t want to take any risks. I never lost faith.”
“It was a difficult decision for goalkeeper coach Andreas Köpke and of course for coach Joachim Löw. It’s a shame Bernd Leno has to go home, we all know he’s a great goalkeeper,” Neuer explained. “A coach always has to decide though, he knows that, and the team has to live with those decisions. Now we’re looking forward.”