Former Schalke captain Alexander Nübel arrived at Bayern Munich this summer after agreeing in January to leave Die Königsblauen. The transfer caused quite a stir as Manuel Neuer, whose contract was set to expire after the 2020/21 season, had not yet signed an extension, while Nübel was yet another example of Bayern acquiring a Bundesliga starlet. The situation changed, however, as Neuer extended his contract, Bayern won the treble and Sven Ulreich remained the number two. Nübel is yet to make the bench, and his Bayern future is already in question.
Alexander Nübel is Yet to Make Bayern’s Bench
The ‘Neuer’ Neuer
Twenty-three-year-old Nübel was essentially an unknown until 2019 when Schalke Manager Domenico Tedesco dropped starting goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann in his favour. Incoming manager David Wagner not only kept Nübel as the number one but promoted the academy product to captain.
Schalke, one of Germany’s biggest clubs, were flying high in the table at the beginning of the 2019/20 campaign, and Nübel was captain and attracting attention from all over Europe. His similar background and appearance to that of Manuel Neuer gained him the nickname Neuer Neuer, the “new Neuer.” Transfer speculation immediately began, but it was announced in January that Nübel would be moving to Bayern in the summer.
Alexander Nübel’s Decision to Join Bayern Met With Scepticism
The German media loudly questioned the move. The context of Nübel’s transfer was much different than Neuer’s in 2011. Neuer had made over 150 appearances for Schalke before moving to a Bayern side that was actively seeking a new keeper. Nübel has made just 46 senior appearances and comes to Bayern as a future Neuer replacement. Many experts questioned how Germany’s supposed ‘future keeper’ could develop without playing regularly.
Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidžić, who brought Nübel to Säbener Straße, reportedly had the answer: guaranteeing Nübel 15 appearances a season in his contract. Neuer would play in the Bundesliga and Champions League, and Nübel would play in the DFB Pokal. This seemed plausible, as Neuer’s form had depreciated over the past years, with many calling for Marc-Andre ter Stegen to replace him as Joachim Löw’s number one.
Germany’s Rekordmeister seemed to have the perfect goalkeeping succession plan in place. The 34-year-old Neuer would remain number one. Nübel, however, would get about 15 matches a year and learn from one of Germany’s greatest ever keepers. After two or three seasons, Neuer would move on and be fully replaced by Nübel. The plan was reminiscent of Barcelona utilizing both ter Stegen and Claudio Bravo from 2014 to 2016.
Neuer Was Not Having It
Most plans work well on paper. Bayern, however, seemed to forget what makes Neuer such an amazing keeper: his outlandish confidence that often borders on arrogance. The world champion is not going to simply give up 15 matches to an inexperienced youngster. Neuer clearly felt disrespected by the club and was reportedly making unrealistic wage and contract length demands in retaliation. In May, however, the two parties came to an agreement that keeps Neuer at the Allianz Arena until 2023.
Alexander Nübel’s Gamble Might Backfire
After the 34-year-old’s performance in the Champions League, especially the final against Paris Saint-Germain, no one was questioning Neuer’s form or age. Bayern manager Hansi-Flick publicly stated that Neuer is the only option in goal. Three games into the current campaign and Nübel has not made Bayern’s bench. This includes the seemingly meaningless Supercup match against Borussia Dortmund.
Bayern’s Options Regarding Alexander Nübel
Bayern have two real options to remedy the current situation: sell Sven Ulreich or loan Nübel out. A move to Hertha Berlin for Ulreich was recently ruled out, and with the summer transfer window closing soon, a Nübel loan move looks to be the more realistic option. In May, Bayern legend Sepp Maier argued that the 23-year-old should be loaned back to Schalke because: “He has to play, he’s too good for the bench.”
The present situation requires Nübel to play second fiddle until Neuer retires. Maier continued, arguing that: “It could still be a few years before Neuer quits. Those would be wasted years for Nübel in my eyes.”
Bayern Will Make a Decision on Alexander Nübel in the Coming Days
While not playing is clearly bad for Nübel, it also does Bayern no favours. Their Neuer succession plan hinges on the young keeper developing, and doing so requires playing matches. For Nübel himself, not playing regularly now could permanently stall his career. Bayern will make a decision in the coming days on whether Ulreich or Nübel leave.