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Neuer and Schalke sign off with a smile

Despite bowing out to a "lucky goal", FC Schalke 04 goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said he will not forget the "special" atmosphere of the UEFA Champions League.

Schalke have enjoyed their time in Europe's top club competition
Schalke have enjoyed their time in Europe's top club competition ©Getty Images

The disappointment felt by FC Schalke 04 at losing their first-ever UEFA Champions League quarter-final was tempered by a feeling of satisfaction at their robust performance at the Camp Nou and the sentiment that their European campaign has been hugely rewarding.

Main star
Perhaps the star of their show this season has been 22-year-old Manuel Neuer, the goalkeeper whose brilliance in Portugal was crucial to eliminating FC Porto on penalties in the first knockout round and who compensated for his first-leg slip against FC Barcelona in Gelsenkirchen by producing a top-class display on Wednesday. He is still irked by the manner in which Frank Rijkaard's team reached their 2-0 aggregate scoreline, but warns Schalke's domestic rivals that he and his team-mates will redouble their efforts to qualify for next year's competition by finishing as high up the Bundesliga as is feasible.

'Lucky goal'
"Yaya Touré scored a lucky goal to win this match," said the combative young German. "The defenders did everything within their power to clear Bojan [Krkić]'s cross but then, by sheer good fortune, the loose ball falls at Touré´s feet. Even then he did not hit his shot anything like cleanly because if his contact had been true then I'm certain the effort would have hit my body. The hard truth is that Barça have shown us how to do it. They've demonstrated the difference between a good and a top, top team. We had four or five excellent opportunities to score, just like last week, but we've ended up losing 2-0 on aggregate.

Learning curve
"All in all if we'd been offered the chance to sign for a hard-fought defeat in the Champions League quarter-final when this season started then I guess we'd have taken it," he added. "Moreover, the experience we've gained playing in London against Chelsea [FC], at the Mestalla Stadium versus Valencia [CF] or even in Trondheim [against Rosenborg BK] has been a hugely important learning process for us. The whole atmosphere of the Champions League, especially when that anthem rings out at the start of a match, is incredibly special. All the players want to taste it again immediately so now we must return to Bundesliga football and demonstrate how much we want to come back into the Champions League again next season."