Bayern Munich and Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer could be out for longer than expected as he recovers from a foot operation. Joachim Löw is confident he'll be back in time for the World Cup and has adequate back-up.
Just weeks after returning to action last season after having fractured his left foot, Neuer suffered another fracture in the same foot in a training session in September. He was initially expected to be out until January but has now revealed that he could remain on the sidelines until March.
"The wound in the foot is still healing," he told Bayern Munich's club TV channel. "That can take up to six months but of course it always depends on the healing process.
"My rehabilitation is going well though so far," he added. "I'm positive and I think I'm making progress."
Neuer's ultimate aim is to recover his fitness in time to help Germany defend their World Cup title in Russia next summer.
"Doing that with Germany, that would be something we've never done before and would be a dream for all of us," he said.
'The best goalkeeper on the planet'
National team coach Joachim Löw is following his captain's progress closely but isn't jumping to any conclusions – positive or negative.
"Of course I hope Manuel Neuer can start training again as early as possible next year and get some match practice," he said at a press conference in Mainz ahead of Germany's final World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan in Kaiserslautern on Sunday.
"I know that Manuel can reach the very highest level again in just two or three months. He has without doubt been the best goalkeeper on the planet in recent years."
In the meantime, Löw has identified Marc-André ter Stegen as his preferred back-up goalkeeper and started the 25-year-old at the Confederations Cup.
"He beings calmness, security and coolness," he said of the Barcelona stopper. "If we're talking about the next best goalkeeper after Neuer then that's ter Stegen at the moment."
Nevertheless, Bayer Leverkusen's Bernd Leno is set to start in goal against Azerbaijan on Sunday.
mf/mp (dpa, afp)