Season over at Bayern for Neuer, doubts over World Cup

Berlin (AFP) –


Manuel Neuer has poured serious doubt on his World Cup chances while his Bayern Munich coach on Wednesday says Germany's goalkeeper will not play again in the Bundesliga this season.

"I do not think it's imaginable that I go into such a tournament without match practice," Neuer said at an event on Tuesday night on his Russia 2018 chances.

Neuer, 32, has been sidelined by a fractured foot since September and is running out of time to be fit for Germany's opening World Cup match against Mexico in Moscow on June 17.

Jupp Heynckes has ruled Neuer out of Bayern's final league game at home to Stuttgart on Saturday.

Bayern's back-up goalkeeper Sven Ulreich is also expected to deputise in the German Cup final on May 19 against Eintracht Frankfurt in Berlin.

"Manuel will not be in the squad for Saturday's final home game against Stuttgart, for the cup final the decision is still open," said Heynckes on Bayern's website.

If he misses the Berlin final, Neuer could only get the necessary match practice in two games before the World Cup -- Germany's friendlies away to Austria in Klagenfurt on June 2 and at home against Saudi Arabia in Leverkusen on June 8.

"There are still a few games," Neuer said, but added that he cannot give a date for his return.

"There is no prognosis, I have to make the right decision for me, the team and Germany.

"It does not help to get distracted."

- Debate rages -

Coach Joachim Loew is still expected to include Neuer in his provisional World Cup squad, which will be named next Tuesday and then trimmed down for the final 23-man list.

The goalkeeper will have to work on his fitness at Germany's two-week training camp in northern Italy from May 23 to June 8 if he is to have any chance of playing at Russia 2018.

Neuer only recently returned to Bayern training.

"I want to improve daily and try to get fit as quickly as possible, so far the steps have been very good and positive," he said,

"I'm trying to continue and then we'll see if it's enough."

Neuer is the main concern for Loew, who is also waiting on the fitness of Germany centre-back Jerome Boateng, who has a groin injury, and attacking midfielder Mesut Ozil, who is sidelined by a back complaint.

Boateng says having Neuer in goal is key to Germany's hopes of retaining the title.

"He's our captain and a strong personality, it just makes you feel good when 'Manu' is behind you," said the burly centre-back.

Debate is raging in Germany as to whether Neuer should play at the World Cup finals after so long on the sidelines.

Oliver Schmidtlein, a former physiotherapist with the German team, told magazine Sport Bild he believes Neuer will not be ready to play in the World Cup's group phase.

"Manuel can't train more in his current situation, even though time is short, or he'll risk compromising his recovery, so I think Manuel could be involved at the earliest in the knockout games," said the former Bayern and Germany physio.

"But maybe 'Jogi' Loew will also rely on him, because, even if he is not on the pitch, as captain he is important for the team structure."