MUNICH — Jupp Heynckes has said he believes Manuel Neuer will play for Bayern Munich before the end of the season and take part in the World Cup.
Neuer, 31, has fractured his foot on three occasions in the past year, and the Bayern and Germany captain said after surgery in September that his recovery could take at least six months.
Heynckes told a news conference he had sent Neuer away from Germany to continue his recovery in Thailand.
“He followed my advice and has gone for a change of scenery away from Sabener Strasse,” he said.
“I’ve shadowed his recovery closely since my return. We have celebrated major successes together, and I respect him not just as the best goalkeeper but also as a person.
“Manu is continuing to work on his fitness. Psychologically, he’s doing well and is making very good progress.”
Heynckes said he had not put a timeframe on Neuer’s comeback, adding: “I haven’t told him he must be fit in February or March for Champions League games.
“I am not putting him under any pressure. But I am almost convinced that he will play for Bayern before the end of the season and will go to the World Cup.
“Manuel can’t afford to take any risks — it’s up to him, the doctors, physios, fitness trainers and I to decide when he can return to the training pitch.”
Meanwhile, Neuer’s understudy Sven Ulreich has extended his contract until 2021 after deputising for Neuer for much of the season.
Heynckes praised the keeper, set to make his 200th career Bundesliga appearance at Wolfsburg on Saturday.
“He wasn’t playing well when I arrived, but I told him at the time: ‘You will play this week, next week and in three months,’ he said.
“It was important to tell a goalkeeper who to this point had enjoyed very little support at Bayern. It was vital to say: ‘You are my man,’ and the team soon noticed that is a really good goalkeeper as well. I have complete faith in Sven Ulreich.”
Heynckes confirmed that Thiago Alcantara would start as he makes his comeback from the thigh injury that has kept him sidelined since November.
“Thiago has trained completely with the team for two weeks and is fully recovered,” he said.
The coach said that meant he would have a full complement of outfield players at his disposal for the first time since his previous spell in charge at Bayern.
“That’s not just down to training or the players’ professionalism — this is because recovering players are not sent prematurely back into action by me,” he added.
Heynckes confirmed he was over the flu bug that kept him away from the win over Schalke last weekend.
He said he had fallen asleep in bed and missed the majority of the first half of his team’s 2-1 victory.
“On Saturday I went to bed at 4.15 p.m. [Bayern kicked off at 6.30 p.m.],” he said. “And do you know when I woke up? Shortly after seven. Bayern had already played 35 minutes against Schalke. I had a really guilty conscience.”
Mark Lovell covers Bayern Munich for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @LovellLowdown.