How the Next Three Years at Bayern Could Define Manuel Neuer’s Legacy

Bayern Munich did good business earlier this week and extended Captain Manuel Neuer's contract until 2023. With the new contract, the German goalkeeper will extend his Bayern career to 12 years after moving to Die Roten in 2011.

Neuer has long been one of the best goalkeepers in world football and is known for his (once) unique style of play between sticks. The 34-year-old has won everything with Bavaria and Germany and reached the climax of the game with the cutlery he won on the way up.

Neuer is simply one of the best goalkeepers of the modern generation.

His new contract extension shouldn't come as a real surprise given his status and balance sheet with Bayern. Neuer has played 374 times for The Reds and won 18 trophies, an incredible achievement in a time of remarkable dominance for Bayern. He revolutionized the role of the "sweeper guard" and took incredible risks at a glorious cost from his box.

Manuel Neuer with the 2014 World Cup trophy.

Neuer has been at the peak of his career in the past ten years and peaked when he helped Germany to its fourth World Cup in 2014 – its historic premiere as a reunited nation. These few years before and after the World Cup victory were the best of his career in which he was unstoppable for the club and the country.

But no matter how hard it is to admit, Neuer is not the player he used to be.

He still remains one of the best goalkeepers in the game, but the age of the German – and a long-term foot injury – are starting to defeat him. He didn't appear to be at the 2018 World Cup, where Germany failed in the group stage to continue the curse of the dreaded champion. Neuer was one of the big names on the team who underperformed.

Four goals in the three games of the group phase were problematic and corresponded to the balance of the entire tournament in 2014. The final goal summarized the decline of Neuer from his once breathtaking climax when he lost the ball in a classic sweeper run in the last third and Son Heung-min gave an open goal to stamp Germany's exit from the tournament.

Manuel Neuer at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Newer status in his home country and in the Allianz Arena cannot be denied, but his legacy could be tarnished.

Seven titles in a row in the Bundesliga prove that he is still good enough to be Bavaria's number one and to play in one of the best leagues in the world week after week. But for the man, who for years was undisputed the best goalkeeper in the German league, he has dropped in the ranking of many critics of the best shot stoppers in the Bundesliga.

While he has the edge in 26 league games with 11 goals conceded, Neuer is rarely considered the best goalkeeper in the league. Younger talents like Yann Sommer, Péter Gulácsi and the incoming FC Bayern Alexander Nübel deserve the most praise at Germany's number one.

With 26 goals conceded in the Bundesliga this season, Neuer has never conceded a goal in a league campaign since arriving at Bayern. Only in his early days as Schalke can a larger record be recorded. In the last two seasons at Bayern, the number of goals he scored has increased significantly.

New in action for FC Bayern Munich against FC Augsburg.

Neuer has definitely passed its heyday, and if current figures are available, its quality of performance may continue to decline over the next three years. The extension was a risk, but an inevitable decision. The goalkeeper was more than satisfied with the German champions.

The German will be 37 years old until the end of his current contract, possibly the perfect time to hang up his gloves for an illustrious career. But these next three years could prove costly for Neuer as we see more and more mistakes and errors that we would never have dreamed of before we slipped into his game.

Other top European clubs have the same problem with long-time goalkeepers, as club legends show signs that they have really blossomed before being pushed to the sidelines.

Real Madrid's Iker Casillas is a good example when he lost his first place to Diego López after an injury before moving to Porto in 2015. Petr Čech experienced something similar at Chelsea when Thibaut Courtois was recalled by Atletico Madrid and joined Arsenal after a year on the bench.

Iker Casillas on the bench for Real Madrid CF.

A lackluster period of three years for Neuer could be costly and run the risk of compromising his Bayern legacy if he falls out of favor. Nübel is his likely successor after being signed by Schalke, but the move from one German goalkeeper to another could come earlier than the end of Neuer's contract.

Is Neuer's legacy at risk? Possibly. But will it ruin it? Absolutely not.

Reaching the peak of your career is something every soccer player will experience that is even more difficult for the best in the game. Neuer will continue to make more and more mistakes, but that's the reality of being a player. It is the reality of aging that the 34-year-old already understands.

Neuer celebrates with FC Bayern Munich.

Neuer will say goodbye in style at the end of his career, and if he does, he won't be remembered in recent years. He will be remembered for his heroic acts as a sweeper, his incredible shootout, and his memorable achievements between the sticks that praised him as one of the best goalkeepers in the game's history.

Despite all his newly discovered mistakes and quality reductions, Neuer remains an excellent goalkeeper who has won everything. A world championship with Germany, a Champions League with Bavaria and 17 other great honors say everything you need to know about Germany's number one: he is one of the best of his generation.

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