Nearly two weeks after Manuel Neuer broke his leg in a skiing accident – an injury that will keep him out until at least August – Bayern Munich are still looking for a replacement. The most apparent solution continues to be the transfer of Alexander Nübel and, indeed, an agreement seemed closed last week.
And make no mistake, bringing Nübel back would be the best solution for the club. But despite Bayern owning Nübel’s contract – the 26-year-old is currently on loan at French side AS Monaco – bringing the goalkeeper back to Bayern isn’t so straightforward.
Firstly, Bayern will have to find a deal to terminate the loan early – a fee of around $2m has been discussed. Secondly, the decision makers at Säbener Straße also have to convince Nübel to return to Munich.
That might be the hardest part. Nübel wants certain guarantees before returning to Munich, including an open competition for the No. 1 spot should Neuer return to full fitness after a complicated injury.
Then there’s the troubled relationship with goalkeeping coach Toni Tapalovic, who is close friends with Neuer. Nübel, through his agent Stefan Backs, has communicated that he would be open to a return once his prospects at Bayern cleared up.
“Yes, Bayern want to bring Alexander back and have informed me about it,” Backs said in a statement to Sky Germany last week. “Now it’s mainly up to the clubs to find an agreement. For Alexander it’s important to know about his perspective.”
Then other reports indicated that Nübel would not return to Munich to work with Tapalovic. A development that has surprised the camp of Neuer and Tapalovic.
“Why doesn’t Alexander Nübel just call Manuel or Toni Tapalovic and discuss the situation calmly,” Neuer’s agent Thomas Kroth told Bild last week. “Why is everything talked about in public?”
Furthermore, Kroth expressed his surprise that Nübel’s relationship with Tapalovic has soured. “The two know each other and it was Tapalovic and Manuel who recommended FC Bayern from the beginning to sign Nübel,” Kroth said. “So they played an important role in Nübel’s move to Bayern in 2020.”
Stories leaked to the press also indicated that Nübel, Neuer and Tapalovic had been in close contact when the former moved to Monaco on loan. But somewhere, somehow, the relationship soured. Some of that could be Nübel seeing an opportunity to truly challenge Neuer for the number 1 position.
In fact, Bayern could be on the right track by forcing the issue, giving Nübel the chance to challenge Neuer. But it also sounds like the Rekordmeister isn’t quite ready to make that call yet, fully backing Tapalovic to stay.
In addition, the goalkeeper of Morocco and Seville, Yassine Bounou (better known as Bono), has become a candidate to take over in the short term, although his exit clause is around 50 million dollars. Another option that has emerged is Gladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer. The Swiss-born goalie will be a free agent in the summer and seems willing to move now for a small fee.
Rumors surrounding Croatian goalkeeper Aleksander Livakovic have been silenced. In fact, many of the rumors surrounding other goalkeeper names on Säbener Straße seem to stem from the pressure cooker created by the difficult relationship between Nübel and Tapalovic.
Perhaps a call between those parties would be the most sensible solution for all involved. Sooner or later Bayern will have to make a call regarding Nübel and this seems like the time. The club knows this too and sports director Hasan Salihamidzic wants to solve the problem at the start of training on January 3, 2023.
Manuel Veth is the presenter of the Bundesliga Gegenpressing Podcast and the US Area Manager at transfer markt. It has also been published in The Guardian, Newsweek, Howler, Pro Soccer USA and various other outlets. Follow him on Twitter: @ManuelVeth