Neuer 2023: Goalkeeping great joins Muller with new deal as Flick's Bayern vision takes shape

By Sports Desk May 20, 2020

Manuel Neuer's new contract at Bayern Munich means another club great will be on hand to try and shape the Hansi Flick era.

Former Germany assistant Flick took on his full-time post as head coach at the start of April, after impressing as an interim replacement for Niko Kovac.

The club then moved quickly to secure Thomas Muller until 2023, with the versatile forward enjoying a resurgent campaign at the Allianz Arena - contributing six goals and 16 assists in 26 Bundesliga games.

Despite playing down suggestions his own new deal was imminent following last weekend's 2-0 win at Union Berlin, Neuer has now joined Muller in committing until the end of 2022-23.

The 34-year-old appears ready to face a potential battle for his first-team place, with Alexander Nubel poised to make the same move from Schalke that he made almost a decade ago, although an 11th clean sheet of season last time out suggests he still has plenty to offer.

Bayern must now turn their attention towards the expiring contract status of four more global stars and decide whether they have a part to play in Flick's vision, while also considering how the post-coronavirus transfer market might play out.

DAVID ALABA

The lavishly gifted Austria international has flourished under Flick, stepping effortlessly into the heart of defence following injuries to Niklas Sule and Lucas Hernandez.

The 27-year-old has started each of Bayern's past 17 Bundesliga matches and has no shortage of admirers.

Amid reports of him being unsettled in Bavaria, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester City have all been linked with his services of late.

JEROME BOATENG

In many ways, the exemplar of Bayern's renaissance under Flick. The former Germany defender played 13 of 26 matches at the start of the season.

Since Germany's winter break, he has started 10 games, performing with his customary assurance and recording a 92 per cent pass completion rate.

However, Boateng will be 32 in September and this run of form might come to be viewed as a fitting swansong at the Allianz Arena, especially once Sule and Hernandez return to fitness.

JAVI MARTINEZ

A well-liked and versatile performer, Martinez's eight years at Bayern have been peppered with injury woes.

The 31-year-old Spain international was not part of the matchday squad against Union and a return to Athletic Bilbao would not be a surprise.

THIAGO ALCANTARA

Thiago wowed with a midfield masterclass in the game that arguably sealed Flick's long-term future – the 3-0 Champions League win at Chelsea in February.

At 29, Thiago is in his prime and must be a central figure in any Bayern reboot.

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    "We'll talk to Man United about it on Thursday."

    That would seem to give something of a green light to Werder, with Bild reporting Alkan held discussions with sporting director Frank Baumann and head of scouting Clemens Fritz.

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    If Chong joins Werder, he could serve as a replacement for Milot Rashica, the Kosovo international who is reportedly in the sights of a host of clubs including Liverpool, Wolves, Aston Villa and RB Leipzig.

  • Manchester City v Real Madrid: Hazard back in England to salvage 'worst' season Manchester City v Real Madrid: Hazard back in England to salvage 'worst' season

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    Joleon Lescott remembers the time he tried to imitate one of David Silva's signature moves on the Manchester City training ground with a rueful chuckle.

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    THE MISSING PRIZE

    Friday's Champions League last-16 match with Real Madrid could be his last for City. If Pep Guardiola's side are able to capitalise upon their 2-1 first-leg advantage, it will be on to Lisbon and the mini-tournament to conclude the closing stages of this season's competition.

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    Another golden era ran roughly parallel in Spain colours, with Silva a cap centurion as part of arguably the finest international team of all time. A rare header in the final of Euro 2012 against Italy set up a 4-0 win, further evidence of a handy knack on showpiece occasions.

    That victory made it three major tournament triumphs in succession for Spain, following Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup. Since leaving Valencia for City in the latter year, Silva has won it all apart from the Champions League.

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    "As difficult as this time is for everyone, he's probably in the back of his head thinking he's happy he's not receiving the attention when he leaves," Lescott said, with City poised to announce farewell plans after Silva's final game.

    "He's so humble and down to earth, it's crazy. It's ridiculous to think that he lives a lifestyle that's so simple considering what he's achieved. He's a credit to everyone who was around him growing up - his parents, his family, who I've been lucky enough to meet on numerous occasions.

    "I can't speak highly enough of him. There's never a time when I've asked him something – a favour or text him or contacted him – and he's not got back to me.

    "Not that many people have been lucky enough to be in his presence outside of football and I can confirm that he speaks English very well!"

    CHANGING THE GAME

    Despite that reluctance to speak publicly too often, Silva has received plenty of warm words over recent weeks. Players and pundits alike have queued up to declare him a great of the Premier League era.

    It is a situation few envisaged 10 years ago, with Lescott initially among the doubters.

    "I remember me and Shaun Wright-Phillips having a discussion about the physical demands of the Premier League and would he be able to cope," he said. "It was due to the fact we were playing 4-4-2 then. We didn't play 4-3-3.

    "David was going to have to play as a winger. If you look back then and think of David coming up against someone like a Micah Richards at right-back, it was going to be difficult physically.

    "But with his football IQ, he was able to create a role in the team that only he was able to adopt. He'd come off the line – full-backs didn't want to be that high up the pitch and wingers didn't want to drop that deep to pick him up.

    "He was able to just be free, but not shirk his defensive responsibilities. In those areas, knowing where to pick up the ball, his intelligence for that is second to none.

    "His football IQ is as good as you'll see. If you think, there are not many times David Silva gets tackled."

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    Elite games in England today are frequently won between the lines and in the half-spaces, as much if not more often than by a ball over the top or via a conventional winger hitting the byline. This shift and expansion in the Premier League's stylistic palate owes much to Silva and feels like his lasting gift, threaded through the division as quietly and subtly as one of his passes.

    "He definitely changed the way people view the Premier League and that role," Lescott added.

    "I spoke to Steven Gerrard about him and he said to play against David was unreal. So that's the ultimate kind of praise.

    "Robert Pires was similar but was more direct than David. In terms of that role, David made it okay for you not to always go on the outside. That's not something he was taught at City, he just understood the game well enough in order to do it.

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    CITY'S GREATEST?

    Having shared an era with Toure, Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne and the club's all-time leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero at City, it is Silva who is most often suggested the successor to Colin Bell – the ex-England midfielder widely viewed as the club's finest ever player for the best part of half a century.

    While those celebrated team-mates have dealt in huge moments, Silva was there for all of them, astutely pulling the strings and knitting the whole tapestry together. Gerrard is far from alone in his admiration. He is the players' player.

    Now 34, Silva's diminished capacity for the physical work he has always relished has given City an insight into a future without him. He is not a guaranteed starter against Madrid, Guardiola having carefully managed his workload in the most demanding games this season.

    De Bruyne has proved a statistical marvel this season, Phil Foden is blossoming and Guardiola can also call upon the lavish gifts of Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva in his creative department. And yet, as Silva adopted a bit-part role, a yawning gap to Liverpool has opened up quickly.

    Seeing him depart a European champion would be the perfect fuel to begin the task of bridging it. But even in that best-case scenario, City will soon have confirmation Silva is impossible to imitate – just as Lescott learnt all those years ago.

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