Manuel Neuer turns 34 years old today. Apparently that’s enough to throw him into the Chelsea rumour mill.
Before football and life shut down, Chelsea seemed to have answered the Kepa Arrizabalaga question: yes, he was young, perhaps a bit arrogant and maybe not to the level everyone was hoping for, but Frank Lampard knew how to manage him and therefore, yes, he would remain the No. 1. But now that there’s not much going on, and the transfer window is delayed along with the rest of the season, the Random Transfer Rumour Generator is more important than ever.
Today’s edition of Bild brings us the idea that Chelsea could swoop in for (possibly pounce on) Manuel Neuer. Neuer is apparently in a situation very familiar to Chelsea players and fans: he’s 34 years old, and wants a longer extension than the club is offering him.
On the one hand, Chelsea have a habit of picking up goalkeepers in the mid- to late-30’s: Willy Caballero, Eduardo, Ross Turnbull, Mark Schwarzer. Signing another would allow them to move on from Willy Caballero, who may or may not want to move on. Unlike Caballero, Neuer would offer legitimate, year round, every day in training, twice a week in the starting XI competition for Arrizabalaga. Arrizabalaga would not have a moment’s peace at Cobham or on a pitch knowing that Manuel Neuer, the sweeper-keeper par excellence, 92 cap World Cup winner, Champions League winner, seven-time Bundesliga champion was his competition for the starting spot.* Neuer could challenge and teach Arrizabalaga like no other, especially in the realm of all those things other than shot stopping. And think about what Neuer’s presence in training or at the club would mean for the next generation of Blues goalkeepers like Jamal Blackman or Jamie Cumming.
On the other hand, this rumour is utter hogwash.
If Neuer wants a multi-year contract and Chelsea won’t even offer one to Willian, how would Chelsea or Neuer have anything to discuss? The Blues normally sign their over-30 goalkeepers on free transfers, and their only two signings from Bayern Munich in the last 20 years were both free: Michael Ballack and Claudio Pizarro. And those players were much younger than Neuer when they came to Stamford Bridge.
The only idea in buying Kepa Arrizabalaga was to buy a young goalkeeper that they could have and built around for a long time. Hence the seven year contract.
Neuer’s not going to go anywhere he won’t start, and Chelsea are not going to park £72 million as a backup on the bench. Even if both goalkeepers were willing to fight it out for the top spot, teams only succeed when they can keep one goalkeeper in net for extended periods of time. There’s no outcome that would be acceptable or worthwhile to all parties involved, even if the players welcomed the challenge.
In the interests of full disclosure, this writer feels obliged to mention that back before he was always right, he was occasionally spectacularly wrong. One such incident was when he argued forcefully against Chelsea signing a player over age-30 from Bayern Munich: Robert Lewandowski. Like many tweets and unlike Lewandowski himself, that didn’t age well.
The difference this time is not that we’re saying the idea of signing Neuer is a bad one, just that it’s massively implausible. But hey, what else do we have to talk about in the world of football today?
*Except for when Neuer commits one of his Poisson distributed howlers.