Manuel Neuer is nearing a return to full fitness but will not be involved in Bayern Munich’s Bundesliga match at Cologne on Saturday as coach Jupp Heynckes remains guarded about the goalkeeper’s World Cup prospects.
Germany international Neuer has not played for Bayern since September as he battles to recover from a metatarsal fracture. The 32-year-old is a certain starter for club and country when fit, but faces the prospect of missing out on a place in Joachim Low’s national team squad for Germany’s defence of the World Cup in Russia if he is unable to prove his readiness.
“He won’t be in the squad on Saturday,” Heynckes told a news conference on Friday.
“Today he will train a part [of the session] with the team and accelerate his recovery, so he’ll take another step forward next week.”
Asked when the shot-stopper will return to action, Heynckes said: “It depends on the doctors, Manuel and I. I cannot say that at the moment.”
As for his chances of featuring in the DFB-Pokal final against Eintracht Frankfurt on May 19, Heynckes said: “It is too early. We all have to be patient.”
Sven Ulreich has deputised ably for Neuer throughout much of the season, but committed an error that led directly to Karim Benzema’s second goal as Bayern exited the Champions League semi-finals at the hands of holders Real Madrid on Tuesday.
Nevertheless, Heynckes has no intention of punishing Ulreich for the mistake.
The coach said: “He is currently our goalkeeper, right? He has my trust… he trusts me. That’s why sometimes you do not need many words. That’s why I do not worry about him at all.”
Neuer, meanwhile, played a major role in Germany’s 2014 World Cup triumph in Brazil, but Low could well turn to Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen next month as Die Mannschaft seek to retain their crown.
And Heynckes knows Neuer and the medical staff treating him face a difficult decision following earlier setbacks on his path to recovery.
“Manuel is in top [condition],” he said. “He has worked great again. He has great ambitions to go to the World Cup.
“It’s been very positive so far, but he cannot take any chances. He has to feel that for himself and the doctors must continue to give the go-ahead, because that’s a sensitive injury that has not always been [given] the right decision in the past.”