Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has said he is convinced he will be able to play in next year’s World Cup but remains uncertain about when he will make his club comeback.
Germany international Neuer, 31, is out of action until the New Year after fracturing a bone in his foot in September — the third time he has suffered such an injury this year.
The Bayern and Germany captain, who said his recovery could take at least six months, told Bild: “I have to say the other goalkeepers have performed well, but I fully expect to be back in goal at the World Cup.
“In my opinion, there’s nothing standing in the way of me playing in the World Cup.”
However, Neuer could not give a definite timeframe for a return to action with his club.
“It is difficult to say when I will make a comeback. Firstly, I have to get 100 percent fit and at the moment I’m still on crutches,” he said.
“I hope to be able to ditch my two friends [the crutches] in the New Year and then step up my recovery, but it’s hard to predict when I will return to the pitch.
“I am taking my time and not taking any risks — I need to be 100 percent.”
Neuer said he would only step up training when he got the green light from the medical staff, adding: “A further injury to the bone would be less than ideal for me.”
With their No. 1 out of action, Bayern’s back-up keeper Sven Ulreich has produced a series of impressive performances.
However, Ulreich injured his adductor in the warmup before Bayern’s weekend win at Frankfurt, meaning a call-up for academy coach Tom Starke.
Starke, 36, retired in the summer but swiftly came out of retirement to help ease the club’s goalkeeping crisis.
Meanwhile, Bayern have rejected speculation linking them with a move for Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno in the January transfer window.
Bild reported that with Bayern’s European campaign in mind and continued uncertainty over Neuer’s fitness, the German champions were interested in signing Leno next month.
However, Bayern were quick to reject the claims with sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic saying: “There’s nothing to this Bild story, it’s a total hoax,” before adding: “We are very happy with our goalkeepers.”
Mark Lovell covers Bayern Munich for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @LovellLowdown.