Where does Manuel Neuer's return for Germany leave Sven Ulreich at Bayern Munich?
Manuel Neuer has commanded Bayern Munich's goalkeeping position in a similar fashion to how his team dominate the Bundesliga. The ultimate sweeper keeper, the 32-year-old has been the Bavarians' undisputed number one since joining from Schalke in 2011. That was until he received a serious foot injury in September. The German captain missed eight months after requiring surgery.
Neuer's injury opened the door for Bayern's second choice keeper. It was a long-awaited opportunity for Sven Ulreich to showcase his talent. The former Stuttgart man went on to make 47 appearances in all competitions this season. He helped Die Roten secure the Bundesliga title. However, he will be remembered by many for his poor performance during the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid.
Neuer made his comeback on Saturday, playing 90 minutes in Germany's 2-1 friendly defeat to Austria. After reclaiming his position with Die Mannschaft in time for the World Cup, he's certain to do the same at club level next campaign. That will leave Bayern and Ulreich with decisions to make. Will the keeper stay on as Neuer's back-up, or will he be offloaded this summer? Even if the Bundesliga champions wish to retain him, Ulreich, who will be 30 when the new season begins, may seek a move in search of first-team football.
Ulreich's failure to perform during Neuer's absence could prove the deciding factor. His mistake was in large part responsible for Bayern's Champions League ouster. This is a competition the German giants prioritise. The disappointment was felt by both fans and hierarchy alike.
The last time Bayern's board were left feeling despondent, the man held responsibly paid the full price. Carlo Ancelotti's 3-0 Champions League loss to Paris Saint-Germain cost him his job. It doesn't bode well for Ulreich's future at the Allianz Arena.
Will there be any takers for the Bavarians' shot-stopper?
Liverpool is in the market for a new goalkeeper. Both Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius have failed to prove worthy to wear the number one shirt. Ulreich, however, doesn't provide the solution. He isn't an upgrade on neither the Belgian nor German. The Reds can't afford a repeat of what happened in this season's Champions League final. Reliability between the sticks is needed desperately. Jurgen Klopp has learned his lesson the hard way. Roma’s Alisson seems the best candidate.
There are further options for Ulreich, though. He could head back to Stuttgart, the club he represented for over seven years before joining Bayern. His Bundesliga education will also entice other German top-flight teams.
In Europe, most sides are always on the lookout to add experience to their ranks. Goalkeepers usually have a longer shelf life than outfield players. Gianluigi Buffon and Iker Casillas, at 40 and 38 respectively, are still very much involved in the game. The former is rumoured to be on his way to PSG. Perhaps, then, Ulreich could have a place at Juventus.
Bayern Munich, meanwhile, must find a suitable back-up keeper, one capable of stepping up when Neuer hangs up his gloves. Ulreich no longer fits that role.