All of us here at Bavarian Football Works were surprised to find Manuel Neuer and his agent Thomas Kroth as the feature story of the latest issue of Bild am Sonntag. The club leadership of Bayern Munich was perhaps equally surprised or at least dismayed. After weeks of media speculation about contract negotiations with Bayern and damaging reports that Neuer was demanding an incredible five-year contract and a salary over €20 million, the goalkeeper and his agent struck back at Bayern itself. Below, our commentators Fergus, RLD, and myself share our thoughts about Neuer’s interview with Bild am Sonntag.
A surprising and disappointing appearance
Fergus: My first reaction to Neuer’s interview with Bild was one of befuddlement. What does Neuer stand to gain from going to Bild? Surely, it’s hypocritical of Neuer to ask for trust and appreciation from Bayern by going around their back and making accusations of the front-office.
John: I can’t imagine what Neuer thought he might gain by going to Bild. At least it wasn’t the weekday sports editor? (You know who…) I was stunned to see him in the paper at all, and having his agent speak along with him seemed even stranger to me.
RLD: Normally I am giddy with excitement when I get to hear from the principles in a key club transaction talking directly about what is going on, but this interview has only left me confused and disappointed. If Neuer and Kroth had a legitimate agenda going into this interview it is well hidden.
John: After his performance in the Özil scandal, and his low profile overall, I don’t consider Neuer the smoothest operator when it comes to the media. If Neuer thought he was going to outmaneuver Bayern by taking his grievances to the press, he will be very disappointed.
Neuer’s strange accusation of “leaks” from the Bayern leadership
John: The biggest takeaway from the interview, in my opinion, and which is reflected in the way I titled our article about the interview, was that Neuer was directly accusing the club leadership of leaking confidential information about the extension talks. I don’t think there is any other way to see. Kroth hedges, saying they are not interested in blaming anyone in particular, but their actions speak otherwise
Fergus: And why was Neuer so upset about these “leak’s” anyway if, as he and his agent have stated, the major revelations in the media — like wage demands and contract length — were untrue? Perhaps, they weren’t so distant from the truth… We don’t know.
RLD: The fact that Neuer has not asked for a five-year extension and €20 million in salary leaves too many questions unanswered. Whose idea was the interview, Kroth, Neuer, or Bild? What did they hope to achieve with it, other than pissing off the people they are bargaining with? Why do they think there is a leak if the reports are inaccurate?
A loss of trust and appreciation
RLD: The interview strikes me as childish and ego-driven. If Neuer wants respect, trust, and “appreciation,” that is a two-way street. He certainly is not showing the club any of these things by running to an outlet that clearly has an adversarial relationship with the club to air his grievances. The club has made virtually no public statements about these negotiations, but Kroth and Neuer have chosen to bathe in the cesspool of tabloid sports journalism. It makes you really wonder about their motives.
John: To follow that up — Neuer says in his comments that “that’s not how (he) knows Bayern Munich.” Well, I’m not exactly familiar with players — let alone the captain of the team — taking their issues to Bild, at least not in recent memory. Even when Lewandowski told Bild in 2018 he felt as if the club was not supporting him — after pushing for weeks to join Real Madrid — he was doing so to reiterate that “my heart belongs with Bayern,” trying to repair the damage he had done.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in particular put Bild on blast at the infamous press conference that followed less than two months later — largely in defense of Neuer himself! Rummenigge is still on Bayern’s executive board. Time never stands still in soccer, but it’s still stunning that Neuer now is the one going to Bild, for whatever reason.
What next in Neuer’s extension talks?
Fergus: I think that negotiations will be tenser as a result of this interview — especially on Bayern’s side, whom Neuer so publicly called out. I can really see negotiations coming to a standstill, and Neuer even leaving the club. Overall, this is a good look for no-one and the club would do well to sort this matter out as soon as possible.
RLD: This interview is disappointing at best. The whole stunt strikes me as immature and unprofessional. It makes me wonder about Neuer’s character. Hopefully it will not do any lasting damage.
John: That is a difficult question to answer. We will have to see how Bayern responds, presuming that they will in some form — this will be an interesting, early test for Kahn.
If anything, Neuer has probably strengthened the club’s position. He’s the one who looks worst in this affair. No one knows whether to take his claims of leaks from inside Bayern seriously, but there is no denying he, the captain of the team, has crossed a line by going to Bild.
And Neuer has limited options if he truly wants a solid chance to win the Champions League again. If he has offended the men he is negotiating with, he may feel even greater pressure to retreat from whatever his demands really are — or go play in the Europa League with Chelsea.