Berlin: Injured Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer on Wednesday quashed rumours of his imminent retirement and says he wants to return in time to face RB Leipzig on the penultimate day of the Bundesliga season.
"It is difficult to say when I will be back but I think Leipzig is a realistic target," he said at a press conference, with league leaders Bayern away to third-placed Leipzig on May 5.
Neuer, 33, was substituted off during Bayern's 4-1 win over Fortuna Duesseldorf last Sunday after aggravating a recurring calf injury. The knock sees him sidelined at a crucial phase of the season, with Bayern seeking to stay a point ahead of Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga title race and bidding to reach the German Cup final.
Neuer has had a relentless struggle with injury in recent years, and after the club announced that he would give a press conference on Wednesday, there was some speculation that he might be about to end his career."We smiled about that," Neuer admitted when asked about the rumours.
The Bayern shot-stopper insists he is taking this latest setback in his stride after twice breaking a bone in his foot in 2017. "I was out for a whole year last season when I broke my metatarsal and I was on crutches for a long time," he said. "When you are out for that long, your body has to adapt so you expect to have smaller muscle injuries afterwards."
"I actually expected to have a muscle injury earlier this season." Neuer said he knew instinctively that he had suffered a muscle fibre tear when he pulled up during the Duesseldorf game.
The Bayern goalkeeper praised his understudy Sven Ulreich and wants to support the team in the coming weeks. "Even if I can't play I want to be around the team," he said. Bayern face back-to-back games against in-form Werder Bremen in the next week.
They host Bremen in the league on Saturday before travelling north for a German Cup semi-final tie on Tuesday. Neuer described both games as "finals" and warned his teammates not to underestimate Bremen, who currently sit seventh in the Bundesliga.