Bayern München goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has been ruled out until January after breaking a bone in his foot in training. Who will stand in for him in the UEFA Champions League?
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For the second time this year, Manuel Neuer has undergone surgery after fracturing a metatarsal bone in his left foot – this time after suffering an injury in training.
While the operation "went perfectly" according to Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, it has ruled the 31-year-old out for the rest of 2017, leaving someone with a very large pair of gloves to fill. Experts in Germany tend to agree that only two Bayern players are genuinely irreplaceable: striker Robert Lewandowski and Neuer.
However, back-up goalkeeper Sven Ulreich is now bidding to prove all those pundits wrong, with the 29-year-old taking Neuer's place as he puts his injured foot up. One of the highest-rated German goalkeepers for several years, he kicked off his first-team run with a clean sheet in Tuesday's 3-0 Bundesliga win at Schalke.
The former Stuttgart stalwart raised eyebrows when he agreed to join Bayern as second fiddle in 2015. There were even suggestions that Ulreich would leave the club during the summer, in search of regular playing time, but it seems that – for a few months at least – first-team football has come searching for him.
"I have never had any doubts that I have the quality to play for Bayern over a longer period of time," Ulreich told Munich-based newspaper TZ, though he stopped short of saying he was up to Neuer's standard, adding: "He is in a different league to all other keepers. He has his own philosophy and his own training routine – you just have to be in awe of him. I sometimes don't know how he does some things."
Ulreich deputised for Neuer in Bayern's opening Bundesliga match this season, delivering a strong performance in a 3-1 victory over Leverkusen, having two weeks earlier saved two penalties to earn Bayern a shoot-out success against Dortmund in the German Super Cup. "Hero for a day," the newspapers wrote the next morning. Will he get to be a hero for more than a few weeks this autumn?