‘Best goalkeeper of his generation’: Germany in safe hands as Manuel Neuer approaches record

Neuer could set a German safe hands record in Saturday’s Euro 2016 quarter-final against Italy as the world champions’ bid to add the European crown. Neuer has posted five straight cleansheets for the world champions.

Germany's goalkeeper Manuel Neuer in action during the Euro 2016 round of 16 match between Germany and Slovakia at Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille Metropole, France, 26 June 2016. EPA/FILIP SINGER
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Quarter-finals: Germany v Italy, Saturday, 11pm (UAE time)

Manuel Neuer could set a German safe hands record in Saturday’s Euro 2016 quarter-final against Italy as the world champions’ bid to add the European crown.

Neuer kept a fifth straight cleansheet for Germany in Sunday's 3-0 last-16 win over Slovakia, which leaves Germany as the only team yet to concede in the tournament.

In the proud 108-year history of the German FA (DFB), no other goalkeeper has managed five consecutive cleansheets for die Mannschaft.

The run includes the 2-0 warm-up win at home to Hungary and four matches at the European Championships finals.

Neuer can break another German record against Italy on Saturday.

Only once, at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, has Germany not conceded a goal in four games at a major tournament.

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Sepp Maier hopes Germany’s star shot-stopper takes his record with another cleansheet in Bordeaux.

“I hope Manuel Neuer breaks my record. He is the best goalkeeper of his generation,” the former Germany keeper, 72, said.

Neuer will win his 70th cap in Bordeaux.

He is two matches from Jens Lehmann’s record of 681 minutes without conceding for Germany, set in 2007/08, but not for consecutive games.

Neuer has gone 450 minutes without being beaten since Eric Dier scored the 92nd-minute winner in England’s 3-2 friendly win in Berlin in March.

With Germany’s captain Bastian Schweinsteiger being eased into Euro 2016 after a knee injury, Neuer has worn the armband so far in France.

He was again rock solid in Lille with a reflex leap to tip a header from Slovakia midfielder Juraj Kucka from six yards out over the bar.

Neuer has been Germany’s first-choice since a rib injury ruled Rene Adler out of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Since then, his rivals have only enjoyed brief stints in Germany’s goal for friendlies.

“In recent years he has dominated the goalkeeper position like no one before him,” coach Joachim Low said of Neuer.

“He is an incredible personality, on and off the pitch.”

At 6ft 3ins, Neuer is an imposing presence.

But he proved he can deal with quiz show questions just as well as crosses in November 2011.

He won half a million euros for charity on a celebrity version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? on German TV.

He also voiced over a character in the German version of the Disney cartoon film Monsters University in 2013.

Neuer has been voted the world’s best goalkeeper for the last three years and won the Golden Glove award as the best goalkeeper at the 2014 World Cup.

His “sweeper-keeper’” style – leaving his goal to act as an extra defender – helped Germany win the world title.

He finished third behind Lionel Messi and winner Cristiano Ronaldo for the 2014 Ballon d’Or.

His aim is simple: to be the best goalkeeper there is.

“My ambition has always been to be as perfect as possible, I have never made any secret of that,” Neuer told GQ magazine.

“That’s how I work everyday in training. I always try to improve myself.”

It is hard to believe, but some Bayern Munich fans did not want him when he signed from Schalke in 2011 for €22 million (Dh89.6m).

The problem for Bavarian die-hards was that Neuer is Gelsenkirchen born and bred and played for city team Schalke.

He used to have the initials GE – the city’s car registration letters – printed on his boots.

Bayern fans were upset when Neuer impersonated Bayern’s legendary goalkeeper Oliver Kahn. It did not help that Neuer sobbed his way through his Schalke news conference in April 2011 to announce he was leaving.

“Koan Neuer [No Neuer]” placards appeared at Bayern games.

That was forgotten when Neuer went more than a thousand minutes without conceding in his first season at Bayern to break Khan’s record.

He has been in goal through Bayern’s four Bundesliga title wins over the last four years, the first time a Germany club has managed the feat.

Outgoing manager Pep Guardiola described Neuer as “the best there is” and said he expects the 30 year old to finish his career in Munich.

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