Berlin (AFP) – Manuel Neuer has just one possible match left to prove his fitness following a foot fracture before Germany name their World Cup squad in a fortnight.
The Germany goalkeeper has been sidelined since September and although he is back in training with Bayern Munich, head coach Jupp Heynckes has again left him out for Saturday’s Bundesliga match at bottom side Cologne.
Germany boss Joachim Loew unveils his provisional World Cup squad on May 15 leaving Neuer with only the final league game of the season, at home to Stuttgart on May 12, as a chance to prove he is fit.
“You always have to be careful. This is an injury that has been fractured two or three times, so you can not make another mistake,” warned Heynckes.
Loew has said he plans to take Neuer, 32, to Germany’s pre-World Cup camp in north Italy at the end of the month, but time is running out.
“There is no deadline as to when he has to play,” Germany team boss Oliver Bierhoff told magazine Kicker.
“The real deadline is June 4, when we have to finalise our 23-man squad.”
Heynckes says that with an eye on Russia, where Germany begin their World Cup defence on June 17 against Mexico, Neuer has “great ambitions”.
“It looks very positive, but he must not take a risk, it is a sensitive injury.”
After the Cologne and Stuttgart league games, Bayern’s final match of the season is the German Cup final on May 19 when Bayern play Eintracht Frankfurt in Berlin.
“Wait,” replied Heynckes when reporters asked when, or even if, Neuer will play for Bayern again this season.
Neuer’s workload will be “accelerated” in training next week and “also in practice games, then we will have to see if he can play”, added the Bayern boss.
Nevertheless, Heynckes is happy with Neuer’s progress and his replacement Sven Ulreich is again set to deputise at Cologne.
Just pride is at stake when top play bottom on Saturday as Cologne are already relegated while champions Bayern wrapped up a sixth straight Bundesliga title last month.