Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Clubs, FIFA World Cup, Germany, Manuel Neuer, Marc-André ter Stegen, Story

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Germany need not worry should captain Manuel Neuer not regain full fitness ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, according to former Bayern Munich coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who put forward Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen as the best of many quality alternatives.

Germany goalkeeper Neuer, 31, is recovering from a fractured foot suffered in September — his third such injury in the past year. He will miss Bayern’s winter training camp in Qatar, and it is as yet unclear when the shot-stopper will return.

However, Hitzfeld believes that Germany could do without Neuer if he fails to return in time for the finals in Russia next summer.

“Joachim Low would not be worried. We have loads of alternatives,” Hitzfeld, who retired from coaching in 2014, told German wire dpa.

“You won’t be able to replace him like for like, he’s the best keeper in the world after all. But others like Marc-Andre ter Stegen do not need to hide behind him.”

Ter Stegen has won 18 caps for Germany and is the undisputed first-choice keeper at La Liga giants Barcelona. The 25-year-old made a telling contribution as his side won 3-0 in the Clasico at Real Madrid on Saturday.

Last week, Germany head coach Low had said on B5 radio that the plan for Neuer is “to resume full training sometime in February or March.”

“He’d have enough time then,” Low said, calling the Bayern keeper “the best in the world.”

Stephan Uersfeld is the Germany correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @uersfeld.

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